Thursday, October 27, 2016

Christians ARE Pro-Life

I wish secular bloggers and posters, not to mention some Christian ones, would stop listening solely to the mainstream media's version of reality. Mainstream media reports on a small slice of reality pie and it tends to like its slice juicy and messy. Juicy and messy sells. Juicy and messy racks up likes and shares. Juicy and messy riles up and keeps people returning for more. But juicy and messy isn't the whole pie.

It's not uncommon for me to read a comment or post or blog that chastises Christians for "only being pro-life when babies are in the womb." We don't care about people when they aren't in the womb, I'm told. We don't care about unwed mothers. We don't care about the poor. We don't care about the marginalized. Is this true?

Here's the thing. People who claim the Christian faith (some of them probably really are of the faith, some of them probably aren't) and who do or say awful things, they are the juicy and messy slice the media loves. They are encouraged to spout and rage to bring in the masses to a journalist's news source. We humans tend to love bad news. We love gossip. We love hate. We love grumbling. We love pain. And we especially love pointing fingers at others so we can forget about our own failings.

I have never been interviewed by the media. No one puts a mic to my lips when I donate boxes of baby clothes to a crisis pregnancy center. No one walks beside me to ask why I am on a Hike for Life raising money for women with unplanned pregnancies. No one stands outside the food bank I stepped into to deliver toothbrushes, shampoo, canned goods, ready meals, and asks for an interview when I emerge. And no one gives me a pat on the back and a "let me report this" when I give my life to the two little souls in my personal care who need me pretty much every hour of the day. The media doesn't get juicy from little, insignificant me.

Most Christians are like me. Everyone I know serves others in some capacity. Some work at crisis pregnancy centers. Some adopt orphans. Some raise money for organizations and resources to help unwed moms. Some have put their heart and souls into ministries who help the marginalized, refugees, sex trafficked women and girls. Some go overseas, short term or long term, aiding the poor and needy around the world. Some serve in the local community, taking meals to the elderly, helping children who need school supplies and after school care. Some use their skills as doctors or carpenters or electricians to care and build and aid. Some look for those that need help around them and lend their hearts and hands. And some like me who have their hands and lives full to the brim with the children in their care find ways to help the wider world as best they can and long for a time they'll have more margin to do even more.

What's the truth? The truth is most Christians are pro-life. We're not going to be lauded. We're not going to be interviewed by the media. We're the part of the pie they don't have much interest in. Once in a blue moon, they might care. But most of the time, this just won't be the case. So bloggers and posters and commenters, please stop saying Christians aren't pro-life unless you are in a womb. It just isn't true. And Christian, you keep doing what you are doing. Be God's hands in a needy world. Fix your eyes on your Savior. Remember that even though your part of the pie isn't lauded, you are seen and known by the one who truly matters.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It's Either All About Grace or It Isn't

Much of the church these days proclaims that God is a God of grace, that the church should be about grace, that grace is a message needed in a dying world. I've heard a lot of sermons and read a lot of articles about accepting the downtrodden, opening our church buildings to anyone, being the hands of Jesus to the sinner, showing people a God who hasn't written them off. Trouble is, I don't think we really believe this. At least, we often don't act like it.

We are human and our sinful humanity unfortunately means that the concept of mercy and grace run right up against our sin. We easily expect mercy and grace for ourselves, but we have a hard time giving it to people who have hurt us, people who are against us, people we don't like. We often operate under a double standard where I get grace, but you don't.

I think the reason grace is hard for us is because we think giving people grace is excusing sin. But that's not true. Grace doesn't excuse sin. Let me say that again: Grace doesn't excuse sin. Grace takes care of sin. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). Christ died to get rid of sin. His grace wipes sin away. To give grace is not to say that someone's sin didn't matter. It mattered a whole lot--our Savior died to take care of it.

God's grace does not excuse sin, but a lot of people we meet haven't been saved. They aren't under God's grace as far as Jesus' sacrifice. Does grace apply to them? "[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). All throughout the Bible there is a focus on God's desire for people to be saved and God draws his people into this desire by commissioning us to speak his truth about grace. Verse after verse speaks of Christians denying themselves for the good of the unsaved. Jesus modeled his love for the unsaved, eating with those despised. Think of the worst person you can, then think of Jesus sitting and eating with this person. Through this image we get a sense of what it truly means to be the hands of Jesus in a fallen world.

The truth is, there are a bunch of people we personally know and even those we have never met that we despise and we don't want love or grace extended to them ever. And we certainly don't want to be the conduit of love and the mouth that speaks grace. There's an entire book written about a man just like this. His name was Jonah and he was called to go to a people he hated and had no desire for their salvation. He tried to flee and got swallowed by a fish, then spit out. He agreed to go. He proclaimed the need for repentance and the people he despised repented. And Jonah got mad. He grumbled and complained. He was more concerned about a plant to shade him than a people's destruction: "Isn’t this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live" (Jonah 4:2-3). But God responded: "You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?" (Jonah 4:10).

People on this earth face consequences for sin. Sometimes they are spared those consequences, sometimes not. Regardless, Christians are called to be people of love and grace and truth. We speak truth about sin, but we also extend grace. We show people that God hasn't written them off. We aren't called to go around making sure people repay their debts to us and God (Matthew 18:21-35). We are called to extend the same forgiveness that has been given us to others (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).

Grace is hard. Mercy is hard. Ultimate mercy and grace took the death of a sinless God-man. They don't excuse sin; they acknowledge it and take care of it. They reach a hand down to sinful man and whisper, "God is still here. God sees you in all your ugliness and he still opens his arms. Come, let him enter in." If people are to hear this message from us, then we must guard our hearts and minds and mouths. We must remember what God was willing to give those we consider the most despicable, indeed, even us in our most despicable. If it's all about grace, we have no other option.