Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands (see Revelation 7:9), I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son. I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives; the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions; the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love; the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school. ‘But how?’ we ask.
Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’
There they are. There *we* are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.
My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.
If you have never had the chance to enjoy the works of Brennan Manning then I hastily urge you to do so. His words and story of redemption came to me at such a pivotal point in my journey with Christ. They were used so greatly by Holy Spirit to repair my heart and acted as a catalyst pushing me away from my misconceptions of God and into the oceans of His grace! My college literature teacher often quoted Manning which led me to pick up his book Ragamuffin Gospel. Even still today I am becoming more aware of what was started in my heart the day I picked up that book.
I chose this quote from Manning today because it was so moving to me. I have grown up in a church culture of “absolutes” and strict dichotomies. One that has always seemed to cause more and more divisions an separation between who is “in” and who is “out”. Note, I am not bashing the congregations I have been a part of but just saying the American church culture in general bred this into me along with the insatiable desire to be right. How could it not? All the schisms and fragments. All the camps and divisions. It has been in discovering the paths of Ancient faith, that has freed me from my need to be right. For the first time in my life I am truly fixated on the substance of Christ rather than doctrine. I am learning to live, move, and breathe in the reality that Christ is in me!
I once lived in such a way that reduced the gospel down to nothing more than rigorous behavioral modification. I was a harsh man. Legalistic. A “Pharisee of Pharisees”. Full of snap judgments and lacking compassion. I know some are reading this and thinking Brennan, or myself, is condoning sin and wicked living. That could no the further from the truth! All Brennan is saying is that Grace meets us in the middle of our Hell. He covers us with His wings and holds us close to His heart. Grace is so offensive to our religious mindset that we have to have our crap together. How offensive grace truly is! He does not care about our status quo or opinions! He looks at the woman naked caught in the middle of adultery and proclaims “I condemn you not! Go and sin no more!”. I would have to say that my heart is on the same wavelength of Brennan’s now. I see these people trapped in filth and I have hope for them. What was once “righteous(not really)” indignation toward the sinners is now a heartfelt hope.
This is a topic close to home for me. It was always so easy to stamp a religious motive on to the hate in my heart. Especially when I was taught to “hate the sin, love the sinner”. In theory that is good theology but in practicality it almost always comes out as a cop out to reduce people to their failures. I was that guy, so condemned with in myself from feelings of guilt, who was ready to take up stones on anyone who did not comply to this idea I had of Christendom. I never could live up to my standards but by God I was going to crucify you if you did not! Thankfully, in the middle of making my bed in the Valley of Hinnom, grace found me!
We can be less dogmatic and more loving without condoning unrighteousness. Loving people does my equal condoning their behavior. How can it? They are NOT what they do. Until we start seeing them through the eyes of Christ we will always label them with their vices and failures. And if you call someone something long enough I assure you they will start to believe it! Beloved we have to do better! Let’s us be the hope of the world! Let’s us overflow with the offensive and unrelenting love and grace of Jesus out Messiah! If you are struggling in any measure just know that the God of Jesus Christ loves you with a love that knows no end! There is freedom in His wings!
Psalm 139v8If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
Through whom, to whom, and for whom all things exist!
Ps. A great song I happened to be listening to while writing this post is
“You Have My Heart” by Ascend a The Hill! You should definitely check them out!