Wednesday, November 2, 2011
Grace in practice, not just theory
One of my favorite maxims is "The best of men are men at best". It's a reminder to me that no matter how venerable I may think some man - either living or dead - to be, he had flaws and errors both in his beliefs and his practice. Countless times I have found an author or preacher whom I feel I can agree with in all points, but inevitably I find a something in his life or his teachings that I disagree with and I am disappointed. The fact that this discovery disappoints me is puzzling for two reasons. One, his overall agreement with me on what I think to be right ought to cause me to pause and consider whether or not this point on which we disagree is an inconsistency in my life instead of immediately supposing that the fault belongs to the other party. Secondly, it exposes to me that I had again fallen into the trap of imagining that there was a man who was in all actuality perfect while here on this earth. While I claim to refute that doctrine, and ever do in word, my hypocrisy is evidenced when the failure of a man I admired causes me feel betrayed.
I'm striving to fix this inconsistency in my life and to live every moment in the reality that every human on this earth has shortcomings and therefore a need for grace from their fellow humans. I expect it myself, when I fail in a duty or what someone expected of me, I want them to realize I'm fully human and forgive my fault. With all this in mind, it sickens me to see the level at which so many so-called christians look for opportunity to expose, decry, and disassociate themselves from someone else who claims to love the same Lord they claim to love, because of a difference in belief or practice on an issue of lesser importance than the gospel. What I am referring to is not the instances where men who have dedicated their lives to watching for the souls of other men do their duty and warn the true disciples of Jesus Christ of false teachers who are preaching another gospel; but of men and women of all walks of life who will verbally flay any man or woman who happens to disagree with their soap-box issue. The devil loves to see us defame a man who exalts Christ in his preaching because he dresses more casually than we deem appropriate, but listen to a preacher whose preaching is empty, because we like that he wears a tie, or when we would rather hear a distorted message preached from the KJV than Christ and him crucified from the ESV. How fractured and divisive, weak and lethargic, ineffective and unchrist-like the church is when we major on minors.
If we claim to believe the doctrines of grace, but all that means is that we are proud that we have our intellectual "I"s dotted and "T"s crossed, with no intention of showing a little of that grace to someone who is not on the same spiritual plane we imagine ourselves to be on, we have made a mockery of Christ's love for us. The Pharisees were horrified not only that Jesus associated with publicans and sinners in his evangelism, but that he chose and loved fishermen, tax collectors, and physicians as his religious cohorts, and even went so far as to call them brethren! Therefore, if I'm maligned for refusing to partake in the bashing of those who don't look, act, or believe just exactly like I do, or vilified for actually defending them, I'll feel like I'm in good company. After all isn't that the essence of grace?