Grace moves us from our stick-in-the-mud, “this is the way things are,” black and white, all or nothing thinking, to a whole new realm…an in-between, in-the-middle, gray place where there is room for doubt, where we can ask our questions, and where we can actually ENTER into our mess…and do all of this in the presence of our loving God who cares, accepts us, and enters it all with us.
I’ve had so much on my mind lately. I know of someone whose been arrested for inappropriate and illegal sexual communication with a young girl. Then I heard these words used: “lock them up and forget about them.” This has all been weighing on my mind, making me feel sick, angry, heavy-hearted, and deeply saddened.
It’s not that “black and white’s” don’t exist…that there isn’t a right and a wrong. There most definitely is. However, when THAT becomes our focus and the crux of our lives…the motivation for our living…well I think we might be missing the point.
Here’s what I mean. When someone sexually abuses another person, it’s never okay. When something like this happens in our world, God is NOT pleased. He is not a part of that…these types of acts are not of His Kingdom. That’s as black and white as black and white can be.
…BUT if we stop there…if we stop there, look at such situations and say of the abuser…”lock them up and forget about them,” then we’ve lost the battle. We’ve missed what is the most incredible truth of our God. We’ve missed the opportunity for redemption. And I KNOW God never forgets about someone. NEVER!! (I’m shouting that)
God loves that person who inflicted abuse. LOVES. God created him/her with intrinsic value and worth…in His image. A loved human. A broken human. No different from the rest of us. What does it take to go from looking lustfully at a picture online to having illegal sexual communications with a young girl?? All it takes is being a human. For any of us to think that we are above that type of behavior…that we are somehow better then that…well then I dare say we’ve probably not experienced the real radical grace of God. We haven’t experienced it, because we don’t think we need it…at least not THAT much…right?
At the root of the pornography addict and the prostitute is the desire for satisfaction or love or intimacy or companionship or someone who will desire them back, who will accept them and give attention…even if in the form of a fantasy.
Do you see that? Do you see those desires? Do you know they are God-given? Those desires are good and I am convinced we all have them! Tell me what is wrong with the desire for satisfaction, love, intimacy, companionship…the desire to be desired, accepted, and given attention?
This is the in-between…the not so black and white depths of our souls…and THIS matters. But how often do we stop at behavior…and never go deeper with God? Even with ourselves…how often do we judge our behavior…slap ourselves on the wrist, and hope that’ll keep us from doing it again? Where is God in that? He’s not. When we begin to get real with ourselves, to dig deep, to live in the light where God is…and when we bring our desires to God, rather than shaming and stuffing them and assuming they are wrong….this is when we begin to really live in reality! This is where we get GRACE rather than a slap on the wrist.
And this is what God’s grace says, “I know you made a mistake, but it’s forgiven and I still love you and accept you completely. I know you’ve inflicted pain, but I see your pain, too, and I want to be with you in it and bring you freedom and healing. This is my grace. Please just accept it and sit in it. You need do nothing more than that. Grace.”
And then if we can really begin to see ourselves this way…maybe we will see others a bit differently. We can see that it’s not so crazy that someone can end up doing something we thought was so “below” us. No…we really aren’t that different after all. That there are black and whites…but there are in-betweens as well. That the root of all of our wrongs comes from desires…and we ALL have them.
When we begin to let God meet us in the in-between…in the gray areas…and in the depths of our being…then we can begin to meet people where they are at, too. We can see them for who they are…broken, valued, image-bearers of our Creator, desperately in need of someone to extend real GRACE. Shame doesn’t change…grace does. Shame leads to self-reliance to try to perform better next time. (a never-ending cycle of fear and failure) Grace. Grace leads to the power of God’s love transforming us over time to live out His beautiful Kingdom on earth. Grace.