Sin and grace

grace3The church over its history was meant to show and share God’s love and grace as people continue to live out their lives. One reality that we can all relate to is that we have sinned and experienced the sin of others also.  The community of faith was and is supposed to show us how to show people grace as we work through sin.

It seems harder in our day and age and in our society to confront sin, part of it is because what is sinful keeps changing both in society and also in our understanding of the Bible.  Another aspect that makes it harder to deal with sin is that we don’t know how to respectfully.  Too often sin has been dealt with by using the jagged edge of gossip.  This neither confronts sin nor does it does it bring God’s grace into the equation, in fact, gossip puts grace farther out of reach.  The sad truth is that we also let sin slide because we benefit from sin.  In a society that does not show the same loyalty as it used to, where if we are unhappy or challenged or our needs are not being met, we move on, we leave and go somewhere else.  Also when it comes to the idea of work, it is almost unheard of for a younger generation to even conceive of working with the same company for their entire working career.  And sadly the same is true of relationships, it is more about happiness than commitment.  It has become about the quick fixes for the immediate gain rather than working towards a better life that is realized over a lifetime, not just a couple of months or a year.

With all these factors a reality, it becomes harder and harder to confront sin, because we have forgotten what this really means.  It is about bringing the life changing love and grace that we see with Jesus, who dealt with broken and sinful people and offered them the hope that there would be change, the reality that they were loved, and the help to be free from their sin, not that their sin would be accepted but that they would  be freed to heal and move forward.  Jesus over and over again said, “Come and follow me.”  He invited people into a relationship with Him where He was the leader, the one that cared for them and the one who helped them to grow and change and to live.

Discipline in the church used to be about this life changing grace being lived out where sin was confronted and people where helped to change their lives and the community was stronger because of it, not just the individual.  The grace of Jesus is to benefit the community and the individual, not just one or the other. Another aspect of discipline was to train ourselves to give and receive God’s grace in our own lives to guard us against sin and to bring us out of the pot hole or in some cases canyon of sin.  That these would be stops in the journey of life, not becoming life itself.  Jesus came to free us from our sin, not to reenforce our belief and life in it.  But as I write this I wonder if the biggest problem that our society has with sin and grace is not the disbelief in God or Jesus, or even not wanting to confront sin, but that we as the body of Christ, a community of faith, followers of Jesus, do not believe that God’s grace is as powerful as we say it is and we don’t live it out ourselves because either we don’t understand it or are afraid. Yet God says in Isaiah 41:10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

May the grace of God as written in His word, as lived out through Jesus, and as given by the Holy Spirit live in you and through you, changing you and giving you life to the fullest.

Wisdom

I am not about to make any definitive claims on wisdom other than this one and that is it comes from God.  This is where I see wisdom coming from and I think that it is important that we get this out of the way first.  For some of us and some of you, wisdom is important but it is important for all the wrong reasons.  Some people draw on wisdom as a means of power and control, not as a means of freedom that I believe God is giving it for.

When we look at the readings for this past Sunday, 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 and John 2:13-22, we see that people from various places are having trouble with what God is doing and understanding the why.  The officials in the Gospel of John ask Jesus by what authority does he do what he is doing?  Instead of just saying it is from God, Jesus challenges their understanding of the temple but also of who Jesus is, and who we are as the people of God.  Jesus say, “if you destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it again.”  The Jewish officials thought that Jesus was talking about the temple but He was really talking about Himself.  Sometimes when we are confronted with God’s wisdom we are so focused on ourselves and our own understanding that we miss the bigger picture of what God is doing.

People have the same problem with the cross.  It is even harder is some Western contexts to relate to the cross because of what it represents.  The cross represents pain, suffering, sinfulness, hatred, anger, wrath, oppression, rebellion, hopelessness and so much more, but all of these things are stumbling blocks because at times we try to hide, to hide from, to ignore, to lie about all of these things in our own lives, we are told to, we are encouraged to, we are told that these things are bad, and yet they are real and Jesus confronts them in us and with us.  On the cross, Jesus takes all of these things and dies for us so that we can find hope, peace, love, healing, grace, faithfulness,  and life. A symbol of death is also a symbol of life, a symbol of failure becomes the shining light of success. Sinfulness is confronted and washed away, bring those who come to Jesus into holiness because of all that Jesus has done and is doing.

The Cross doesn’t make sense if your starting point is you.  The Cross only makes sense if your start with God and His life saving love.  God’s wisdom is not your wisdom or my wisdom, it is the wisdom that humbles us and lets us see that it is not about me but about the one who saves me. Jesus.