Written last night, in an attempt to work out a lot of what I was feeling:
There are moments in my life – and now is one of them – when I want to grab certain fellow believers I know, shake them, and scream, “What in the world is wrong with you?”
I know, at least intellectually, that Christians are merely redeemed sinners serving under the grace of God. I know that Jesus did not come to serve the healthy but the sick and that, under those auspices, the church is – as the saying goes – more of a hospital than a museum. I know that. I do. I know that the tendency of the human heart is to sin and darkness, and I know that even the best and longest-lived believers fall prey to that weakness. I know that all our righteousness is like filthy rags.
And yet when I see believers behaving badly in a way that harms people I love, I stumble and I hit the ground hard. When I see Christians do something that is absolutely, provably, Scripturally wrong – and when that wrong impacts people I care about – I get so angry I almost choke on it. I want us to be better than that. I want God to demand better. I want smiting. I want punishment.
God, I say, pacing. Do something.
Silence. God, I say, these can’t possibly be your people. They’re not acting like your people. They’re acting like monsters. They’re causing pain and they’re lying and they’re hurting the body of Christ. They hurt people I love and who don’t deserve it. Aren’t you going to do something?
Silence. I’m serious, God. They’re causing all sorts of hurt and harm to your body, to people I care about, and it’s just – it’s so audacious and blatant. They know they’re in the wrong. They know they’re guilty. Aren’t you going to do something?
And then the still small uncomfortable voice: To you, or to them?
Because the Holy Spirit convicts me that I am no different. And I know in my heart that I’m not. I’ve sinned just as blatantly. I’ve hurt people. I’ve dared to claim the name of Christ while behaving in a manner that is not at all godly, not at all holy, not at all what has been asked of me. Asking for God to smite those people is tantamount to calling down lightning on myself.
I know this, but on nights like tonight the message of grace – which always feels so good when it’s aimed at me – feels like poison going down when it’s directed at people whom I know have caused harm. Because I want to believe that their mistakes are different, or more immediate, or more deserving of smiting. Because I want to believe that I am “good people” and they are “bad people” when none of us is good but God alone. Because I’m hurt and mad and I belong to a God who says that my hurt and my mad do not get to take precedence over His grace.
In John 6, the Bible tells us that many of Jesus’ disciples fell away, unable to accept some of His teachings. It’s true that Christianity is simple, in the sense that it’s easy enough to grasp and apply. But oh, sometimes it is hard: not to apply the good news to ourselves, but to live in the light of grace as it impacts others.
There are times when God’s grace feels like rainbows and sunshine, and I’ll be honest when I say that those times are mostly when God’s grace apply to me or to people I genuinely like or consider deserving. The relief of being pardoned from my own sin and being given chance after chance and being loved no less for my failures is a balm. But when I must apply that balm to the skin of others – others whom I have witnessed causing pain and dissension and hurt – I find myself gritting my teeth.
This is, indeed, a hard teaching. And I choose to accept it because I do not want to be the one to walk away. If I claim Jesus’ redemption, I must accept it entirely and not as some piecemeal Gospel that only applies at certain times.
But sometimes that’s so difficult to do.