Church, Andrea, and Grace

Church on Sunday was really interesting. Andrea spoke and her message was about how we perceive each other and the community we share. She used post-it notes to describe the type of sin she carries with her, struggles with, and wants to share with our community Agape. Interestingly, I find that Agape is so much better at this type of community than most churches I’ve been to, that I struggle to understand why someone wouldn’t want to share their hurts and pain with the people that attend there: no the people who are the church there. From my perspective as a former outsider, I have to say that I don’t really see many people going there who remain as Casting Crowns sings: “shiny plastic people.” I see people genuinely attempting to struggle with their Christian faith, or their faith in general. Linguistically, I guess I should write “faiths” because more than one person goes to church at Agape, but communally we all profess one faith (as diverse as our understandings of that faith may be). All this said, I thought Andrea’s message was an excellent one because even the best biblical communities could stand to be more open with each other.

I only wanted Andrea to go further with her analogy. When we practice grace, we not only label ourselves instead of each other with our little sin-laden post-it notes, we also recognize who we are before our post-its. By this I mean, that in a community, if we are truly practicing grace, we not only label ourselves with our own sin (recognizing that once we confess the sin the post-it is irrelevant anyway) but we see our friends wearing all those post-its, and one by one we pull the post-its from them and begin to wear them ourselves. I can’t get past this concept of grace. It isn’t enough to recognize someone and forgive them, but we are to recognize, forgive, and help them carry that sin. If we all went around pulling post-its from each other, then eventually we wouldn’t know whose sin was whose to start with and we’d all be carrying each other’s sin. There can be no shame, when we all carry the consequences. And whether we want to admit it or not, we all carry the consequences either way.

For example, a teenage couple in our church gets pregnant. We can either shame them and permanently scar them for their sin, as if they won’t be anyway, or we can help them shoulder the burden of their decision and give them a living example of grace. The consequence here is that as a church we were Christ to this young couple (whatever the outcome of their relationship), and we absorbed their public shame by supporting them through their private consequences. I am pretty sure this is what Christ did for the woman accused of adultery. I think he might have written in the sand: “I took all of her post-it notes and I am wearing them, so go ahead and throw the rocks at me.” Yeah, I wouldn’t either.

For my thoughts about winter, click here.

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