Raw Grace

Rob Bell was interviewed in the May/June issue of Relevant Magazine.  In talking about how some people seem threatened by an image of Jesus that encompasses openness and inclusion, he said “I think grace_ pure, raw, true, 100 percent grace_ is always a disruptive force to whatever religious systems have built themselves up as arbiters of God.”  Couple that with the idea that all institutions, however good their intentions may be, eventually exist to perpetuate themselves and the furor over emergent Christianity in general, and the LGBT issue in particular, crystallizes.  There are people with a lot invested in the current religious structure and, from their point of view we are attacking everything they believe in.  In the case of Rob Bell and his book Love Wins (which I highly recommend), John Piper felt that Bell’s rejection of a literal, burning Hell to which people are condemned forever was an assault on everything in which he believed.  Piper’s not alone, there are plenty of  bloggers extremely critical of Emergence Christianity,  calling it neo-Gnosticism, heresy and apostasy.  Reading these criticisms, there are times I get pissed off and am filled with a desire to hit back.  But, then I remember all that stuff about turning the other cheek and  loving my enemies.  And, that really sucks.

It sucks because I want to hit them back.  I want to make them feel the way I do when this happens.  It sucks because I’m good at it; I can flay the skin off someone and make them feel small and insignificant with such ease it’s scary.  The problem is there’s not much grace in doing that.  And, when I say grace, I’m talking about the kind that Jesus displayed throughout his time on earth; the kind that led him to willingly suffer an ignominious and excruciating death so that we wouldn’t have to.  In the face of that sacrifice, allowing someone to call me a few names and question my commitment doesn’t stack up.

We are embroiled in a constant sea of change these days.  Change in society and change in the church.  Because I like many of the changes and embrace them whole-heartedly, I have remind myself that not everyone does; for some people, these changes are scary.  What’s scarier still is the pace at which they’re occurring and the fact that they seem unstoppable.  In society and church, there are many who feel these changes are being shoved down their throat; that they’re given little or no say in what’s happening.  Unfortunately, I can’t slow down the pace of the changes; that’s beyond my control and even if it was, I probably wouldn’t.  What is within my control is how I react to those who don’t share my feelings about what’s happening.  I can work to see their side of things, endeavor to understand their point and allow them to disagree with what I’m saying.  And, most importantly, accept that disagreement with an inkling of the grace Christ showed his critics.  Which is much easier said than done, but I’m working on it.