I have seen a lot of righteous indignation traded on the Internet recently. Josh Duggar, now a young married man, molested some girls when he was a teenager. His past was laid bare in the press over the last two weeks. What he did was sinful, no question about it. He appears to have repented. That means he turned from the sin and, with God’s help, started anew. But, many are still insisting, “He doesn’t deserve to be forgiven.” Creflo Dollar, a preacher, conned gullible people to give him enough bucks to buy a $65,000,000 jet for his ‘ministry.’ A lot of people are calling him ‘blessed.’ That means they believe his jet is a reward for his goodness. His greed offends me! And yes, I’m sure there are people who could write a story about some chapters in my life, sensationalizing some selfish or sinful choice and, depending on their point of view, they might not even think I should be called a Christian.
Here’s what I know: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, NIV) There is it! None of us makes the grade with God. We are not just sinners, we are dead in sin. Since we all live in glass houses we should stop throwing stones! No, that does not mean we lose our ability to know what sin is and to name it. But, we need to start with ourselves and then follow Jude’s direction to “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. There are still others to whom you need to show mercy, but be careful that you aren’t contaminated by their sins.” (Jude 23, NLT)
Indignation allows us to rise to great heights as we puff, pose, and sniff about ‘those sinners.’ We feel so good about ourselves when we point out the guy with the sex problem or the preacher who likes jets or the hypocrite at our church, or the … there are a lot of targets. But, then we remember our own story, our breath catches in our throat as we think about some long forgotten choice or secret sin and we hope that no one chooses to point the finger of judgment at us. In those moments of reality, God’s grace is so much more precious. Paul’s words assure us that we all can come to our Father because of a free gift. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NLT) Do you see any qualifiers on that promise? Is it not for Duggar, Dollar, and me (and you)?
Legalism is a popular brand of Christianity that substitutes rules for grace. The first generation of Christians were Jews and had a hard time letting go of their belief that God required circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and kosher diets for being right with Him. The pressure to ‘look good by keeping the old rules’ was intense. Even Peter caved in to it at one point, though he knew better. (*Galatians 2:11-13) The early Christian Jews and Gentiles feuded with each other for fifty years until those attitudes faded into obscurity. BUT, the impulse to write rules around the Christian gift of grace remains strong to this day. Nobody says that a ‘real’ Christian has to be circumcised, but there are a thousand other rules, depending on your region, race, or age. 4 decades ago I was sure that Christians could not attend a movie theater or smoke a cigarette and be truly ‘saved.’ Silly, you say? Perhaps, but what’s on your list? Can a person be a sex offender and find God’s grace and forgiveness and be accepted by a local church? Can a person admit to struggling to overcome an addiction to pornography or someone who is tempted by same-sex attraction be loved by the Body of Christ and accepted in the fellowship of saved sinners? Can a preacher who cons millions out of $millions to buy himself a rich man’s toy find forgiveness and grace?
Answer that after you read this – “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose sin is no longer counted against them by the Lord.” Now then, is this blessing only for the Jews, or is it for Gentiles, too? Well, what about Abraham? We have been saying he was declared righteous by God because of his faith. But how did his faith help him? Was he declared righteous only after he had been circumcised, or was it before he was circumcised? The answer is that God accepted him first, and then he was circumcised later! The circumcision ceremony was a sign that Abraham already had faith and that God had already accepted him and declared him to be righteous—even before he was circumcised. So Abraham is the spiritual father of those who have faith but have not been circumcised. They are made right with God by faith. And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised. It is clear, then, that God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was not based on obedience to God’s law, but on the new relationship with God that comes by faith. So if you claim that God’s promise is for those who obey God’s law and think they are “good enough” in God’s sight, then you are saying that faith is useless. And in that case, the promise is also meaningless.” (Romans 4:7-14, NLT)
In short, the principle there is that we can only accept by faith what God provides through Jesus Christ. We ALL can be forgiven and made right with God. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that sin is without consequence. Sin does matter! We are called to be holy people. “So since God’s grace has set us free from the law, does this mean we can go on sinning? Of course not!” (Romans 6:15, NLT) “In those days, when you were slaves of sin, you weren’t concerned with doing what was right. And what was the result? It was not good, since now you are ashamed of the things you used to do, things that end in eternal doom. But now you are free from the power of sin and have become slaves of God. Now you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life.” (Romans 6:20-22, NLT)
Today – when indignation rises, match it with humility remembering the universal curse of sin. With thankfulness for the gift of grace, open your heart wide to the fallen, the bruised, the broken, the guilty, the shamed with an offer of the grace that heals. Be like Jesus. His mission was not to condemn but to save. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18, NIV)