Recognizing sin isn't what makes you saved.
Trusting in God's grace - because of, and yet despite - your sin is what makes you saved.
We also need to trust in God's grace when we're looking at the sins we see other people committing. Even though all sin is heinous to God, not every sin has equal consequences for us, and that can delude us into thinking some sins are worse than others.
Too much theology this early in today's essay? I'm sorry. It's just that I was reminded of these basic Gospel truths through a weird confluence of situations. And I'll blame it on Facebook.
No Medium in This Social Media
It all started this morning with my innocuous log-in to my Facebook account, which I do after logging into my e-mail accounts, which I do after my morning devotions. It's part of my ramp-up for the day ahead.
My e-mail accounts generally have information pertinent to me personally, of course, while Facebook... well, is kind of a voyeuristic peek into the personal lives of other people. I usually scroll down a little ways and then remind myself that I have more important things I could be doing... at which point I scroll down a little further, and then force myself to go on and do something more productive... like brush my teeth, or something.
After all, anything else is usually more productive than Facebook.
Unfortunately, this morning, my scrolling through Facebook taught me two deeply disturbing things about several of my friends. Only these two deeply disturbing things are not equal in significance. One of these deeply disturbing things involves a guy who is not saved, who is gay, and who, apparently, has decided he's not even a guy anymore. He's been posting photos of himself in drag for a while now, but this morning, I saw where he'd changed his Facebook profile name and gender.
How do I respond? I haven't seen him in a couple of years, and even when I did, I was better friends with his partner than with him. I haven't said anything as he's been posting other photos of himself in women's clothing and makeup. Should I have known this latest development could be a result of this other role-playing he'd been publicizing for all of us to see? Maybe I shouldn't say this, but he looks as beautiful as a woman as he does handsome as a man. Challenging him on his decision would be nothing about aesthetics or logistics, but all about morality. And Christians aren't exactly models of morality to homosexuals these days.
For some reason, however, learning my one friend has decided to try living as woman - at least, on social media - disturbed me less than learning about a far less profound decision that another couple I know publicized on Facebook.
This couple has decided to spend some money and time in a way I consider to be utterly vacuous and blatantly self-indulgent. I won't tell you what it is, because frankly, all things considered, it's not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of life. And, frankly, I'm embarrassed that I'm as bothered by it as I am. It's certainly not on the lines of claiming a different gender. But what my married friends are doing is completely unnecessary, and characteristic of overall patterns of hollow social climbing some of their other friends and I have been noticing in their married life. Especially since each of their careers are not high-paying. Or even in the for-profit sector.
Nor is it like they're spending a lot of money - they're probably using airline mileage - but it's what they're spending it on that truly surprises me. It's almost like the people groups they serve in the charities for which they work can go eat cake while my friends are off the clock. Besides, since they're Christians, they operate on the idea that people like me shouldn't care what they do in their spare time, as long as it's not illegal. After all, wasting time and money are relative concepts in modern America. Instead, I'm supposed to lavish grace on them, just like they have to lavish grace on me when I do stuff with which they disagree.
Which, of course, is true. Which makes my reaction to learning about what they're doing today that much more frustrating for me! Shouldn't I, as a follower of Christ, be more concerned about what a gay friend of mine has announced on Facebook regarding his gender identity, than the way a couple of fellow followers of Christ have decided to legally spend their time?
Distractions and Avoidance
I suspect that since the enemy of our souls already figures he's got my gay friend under control, he can wreak more havoc in me by stirring up dissension against two fellow followers of Christ. Shucks, he knew he could distract me from my gay friend with the silly drivel being shared on Facebook by my other friends. I've already admitted that I don't know how to handle my gay friend's news. If I truly wanted to be an agent of grace to him, I'd be praying that God would show me how to do that. Instead, I'm sitting here, pecking out a self-help therapy essay reminding myself that I need to be gracious to my friends who've made what I consider to be an unwise - albeit banal - decision.
Lots of us do that, however, don't we? We get all riled up about something minor, and hope major things fade from our consciousness. Perhaps it's easier to fret over stuff we know we shouldn't fret over, thinking that doing so somehow obfuscates our own inadequacies. Meanwhile, fretting over that stuff takes our mind off of praying earnestly over how God might want us to intervene in something far more important.
Because that would require real work on our part. Praying isn't always easy or fun, especially when the problem is particularly complex, and the likely responsibility God may give us for manifesting His will in the situation is intimidating.
It's not even like my dependency upon God's grace works the same in both of these situations. I'm not going to blast my married friends for the way they're spending their time; instead, I'll trust that the Lord will help me to be more understanding of whatever issues have precipitated their particular decisions. I'll also pray that the Lord will help me see what it is about these two people that have made this situation rub me the wrong way! I can think of many other believers who, if they were the ones in this situation, wouldn't elicit anything more than a shrug from me. Perhaps it's because they seem to be getting shallower in front of my eyes that I'm reacting the way I am. I guess I expect either consistency or growth from my friends - not regression.
Speaking of regression, can I be as silently patient with God's grace for my gay friend as I am for my married friends? I can pray privately for his salvation, as I already do, but don't you think, at some point, God will likely encourage me to participate in some sort of interpersonal dialog with him - or her? Argh! As you might imagine, I don't look forward to such a scenario. Yet sometimes, God calls us to stand for truth in exceptionally uncomfortable ways.
Indeed, simply pointing out to my gay friend how he's sinning won't save him. He's no sheltered neophyte; he's become part of Dallas' flaming gay scene, and well aware of what "religious" people think of his lifestyle choices. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if his gender issues stem at least in part from his desire to reconcile his feelings with his own father's conservative politics.
Modeling grace that is firm against sin yet affirming for the sinner has proven to be one of the trickiest parts of evangelism and discipleship.
Yet part of being saved is trusting that the same grace that God displayed in your salvation is the same grace He can display towards others.
No matter what we see them doing.