February 27, 2014

On Extending Grace

Last night, I encountered something that once would have made me angry, but now it just makes me really sad. It was during a Bible study, and the discussion was on why "Love the sinner, hate the sin" isn't what we should be practicing as Christians. The explanation was great (and from a perspective that I hadn't yet considered), but during the discussion, the proposed Arizona law allowing religious principles as an affirmative defense for discrimination by a business came up. What I heard sounded a lot like "Those sinners are attacking us! We have to be judgmental to protect ourselves!" to me. A need for a new volley of arrows in the Great American Culture War.

Now, typically, my response would be to start angrily railing about them being bigoted hypocrites. But since the Holy Spirit has started softening my heart, and scrubbing the crustiness off of my soul, I was just saddened. The only response I had was about the contradiction of being asked to practice love and practice hate by the same cliche. I wanted to write last night, but couldn't manage to do anything until this morning.

"Love the sinner, hate the sin." I have yet to meet anyone that can effectively keep the 'sinner/sin' paradigm in a proper perspective. If we can't properly keep sinner separate from sin, then as we try to practice love and hate at the same time, both love and hate will wind up being directed at the wrong object.

When I got home, there was a link to a blog post by Rachel Held Evans in my Twitter feed. She made a point right along where I was thinking and feeling at the moment, "The truth is, evangelical Christians have already "lost" the culture wars. And it's not because the "other side" won or because evangelicals have failed to protect our own religious liberties.  Evangelicals lost the culture wars the moment they committed to fighting them, the moment they decided to stop washing feet and start waging war." (emphasis mine)

This is where we as Christians have to make some choices. Are we going to demand that people who have not chosen to take up their crosses and follow Christ live as we think they should? Are we going to demand laws to protect our "religious freedom" as we discriminate against people outside of our churches instead of the behavior of those within our churches? And biggest of all, are we going to claim the redemptive power of God's grace through Christ while refusing to extend it to others?

If you don't want to bake a cake or whatnot for a gay wedding, that's your business. Just don't tell me that you're making that choice because you're a Christian. You freely received God's grace, you're expected to give it freely. Gay people are not your enemy. Even if they were, that's all the more reason for you to treat them with love, because that's what Jesus expects of us.

We're called to wash feet, not send them away dirty.

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