I hate to admit that I am old, or getting there. But times have changed since I was a kid. I remember when Madonna was edgy for singing like a virgin. Now it’s abnormal to be a virgin. I remember when it was edgy to see two women kiss on stage at an awards show. Now we see that at the grocery store or while taking a walk in the park. Sexting is normal. 24/7 porn availability on any device with a screen is normal. We live in a time with a new normal. How should the church respond?
1. We Need to be Bold with Grace.
As Christians, we should be known as people of grace. Our entire life is based on God’s grace toward us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9
Without grace we are all without hope and without God. Those who have received that grace should be known for being bold with that grace. We should not be reluctant to extend grace. Perhaps afraid of what others may think of us. Or afraid we will be accused of condoning sin that the person we are with condones.
Typically it is the opinions of other Christians that we are most afraid of. Ask most of your Christian friends whether they are upset that Jesus ate at Simon the Pharisees house in Luke 7. Was Jesus endorsing the legalistic and false teaching of that Pharisee? Or are they offended that Jesus allowed a woman with a bad reputation to wash His feet during that meal? Most honest Christians are not mad that Jesus was at Simons house or that He was gracious with that woman. Most Christians are just glad that Jesus came for them. Jesus faced ridicule for being bold with grace. He was a friend of tax collectors and sinners. He once told the religious of His day,
“And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:16-17
In what ways are you bold with grace?
2. Be Generous with Truth
In our desire to be bold with grace, it can be easy to slip into a sort of Barney theology. “You’re ok, I am ok.” Everyone should just get along. I am certainly not arguing for being a jerk or intentionally starting arguments, but love demands truth.
How much do you have to hate someone to know they are hurting themselves and not tell them?
Again we take notes from our Master Jesus. While Jesus was incredibly bold with grace, He was also very generous with truth. We can harp on being bold with grace and never share the truth. We can feed the hungry, cloth the homeless, fill the stomachs of the down and out and never share the life changing message of Jesus Christ.
Jesus did not come to the earth to merely make it a better place and heal a few diseases. Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 19:10).
I love the story at the beginning of John 8 where a woman caught in the very act of adultery is brought to Jesus. Have you ever wondered what happened to the dude? This is the story where Jesus stoops down and writes in the sand while the men who brought this woman try to trap Jesus in their questioning. Jesus says those famous words, “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”
One at a time each man leaves. It’s interesting that the older men left first. Almost as if to say that they, having more time to sin and presumably more time to mature, had become even more aware of their sin. This happened until there were only two people left. Guess who? Jesus and this adulteress woman. Out of that whole crowd there was one person without sin. Jesus. However, He did not throw a stone. Neither did He ignore her sin for the sake of being bold with grace. Instead Jesus confronts her sin. After all, it was leading her to death (Proverbs 5:5-6; 14:12; 16:25; Romans 6:23). He tells her to go and leave her life of sin. He told her the truth while being bold with grace.
We live in a time with changing sexual norms. The norms of our culture will become more and more perverse. For Jesus, the normal stood out like a diamond on a dark cloth.
For us, boldness with grace and generosity with truth has the potential to change not merely how Christians are perceived, not just how laws are passed, but the potential to change eternity for those you come into contact with, whether at the park, grocery store or in your own home.
Yesterday, I did a talk for Leadership Network on this topic that you can view here: Sexual Norms (Thank you David Cook for your work recording this)