January 21, 2013

The Lens of Grace

We all have our own individual ways of looking at things, especially Scripture. I started changing my spiritual lens prescription a couple of years ago, during a relationship with a very sweet lady.

We had known each other since childhood, and had many mutual friends from our school days, some of whom were now living openly gay. At this point in my life, I had pretty much given up on any form of churchianity, so I didn't really care much at all about what any church had to say on any topic. She was determined to change my thinking about the Church and Christ, so we had many discussions on Scriptural topics.

One night, we were discussing a lesbian couple we know and she said to me, "You know, what they're doing isn't any different in God's eyes than what we're doing, if you look at it legalistically." That stuck with me, and as she was a dedicated church-goer, I asked her how she could reconcile her openness and acceptance with what is written in Scripture.

"I try to look at people through God's grace, instead of His judgment", she replied.

That stuck with me and set me at looking at Scripture through a lens of God's grace, instead of the lens of sinfulness and judgment that I had learned from the conservative Church of Christ congregations of my younger days.

Looking at Scripture with a new set of glasses eventually led me to look at people differently; looking for the Imago Dei instead of the stain of sin. What I saw was pain and confusion, the same pain and confusion that was within me. I also saw the essence of God's image within us all.

And I saw Love.

Not the mushy infatuation of sappy romance movies, but the love that brings action, the love that comes from a decision to act.

A bit later I read Richard Beck's  Unclean: Meditations on Purity, Hospitality, and Mortality , and it made me re-think many of my opinions on church and community. I think continually about the phrase from Hosea that Jesus told the Pharisees to learn to understand: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice."

It's not just about a sacrifice of an animal on the altar at the Temple; it's also about how we sacrifice people on the altar of our own judgment, false pride, and self righteousness.

I still have a hard time with that these days, but I'm not as bad about it as I used to be. And I have a daily lesson in practicing seeing through a lens of grace with one who is even less than the least of these.

But that story is another blog post entirely...

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