From what I’ve seen fifteen years ago it wasn’t very common to (full disclosure: I hadn’t yet entered middle school, so I can’t say with total confidence) point out all the mistakes the church as a whole has made. (Now I do it 2-3 times a week publicly on this blog.) Very generally speaking about ten years ago the church began to wake up to the reality of what she had become and it soon became hip to walk around bemoaning all of the ways churches are “just so messed up.”
American Christianity (maybe moreso fundamentalism) had seen its hayday cruise right on by into the past, as they began to quickly lose their grip on the rope around the general public. Our image began to change from squeaky clean morally upright nice guys to hypocritical, self-righteousness cultural warriors who enforced exhausting legalism in their judgments of the pagan nation around them.
The reputation of Christians in general culture is one of judgment and condemnation. We are the people who wave our fingers at all the naughty things people do, condemn them for it and complain about our lot as a people group. Our self appointed position as the morality police has put us in a position of handing out judgment, not just judgment from us but God as well. (Note: I’m not saying this is a fair image of Christianity, but one at least partially earned.)
If you want to play it safe as a pastor or a leader in the church – then judgment or declaring guilt is the easy way. Few people can say you’re wrong if you claim to be tough on sin. Few people call you out, declare you wishy-washy or as label you new-age or seeker-friendly. No one writes letters to the elder board about you being too soft when you take the judgment route. No one will label you a radical if you use the oldest trick in the religious book of rejecting everyone except those with a clean record. But that’s been the story of religion since its dawn thousands of year ago.
Grace is a different story. Grace is a different declaration. It’s a lot more ambiguous. Where it ends is unclear. It’s loose. It seems like a slippery slope, you don’t want to start the slide because you might just end up declaring everyone’s okay, no one needs God. Grace lets things go, and maybe doesn’t even make a big stink about it.
When it comes to God and religion and its easy to get on the high horse and take the righteous route where you get to judge because you have higher and holy standards. But God didn’t seem to use his righteousness as a way to justify judgment – in fact just the opposite I would say. He used his position of power and authority to bestow grace.
Give it to me, what do you think? (For the ultimate irony, if you have hesitations about what I wrote in this post, err on the side of judgment).
(Note: the alternative title of this post “Beating a High Horse To Death,” I’m aware, doesn’t make any sense. It’s not supposed to – I just love it when people combine two different cliches and totally botch them both. Let me have a little fun!)