True Christianity stands in unwavering opposition to all forms of utilitarianism.
Our faith affirms the God-given value of every person regardless of their usefulness.
Yes, God has organized his world to be useful, but he has also imbued it with the impractical quality of beauty to remind us that value is not defined by usefulness.
The ministry of the gospel in our churches involves more than doctrinal argumentation. The work of the gospel is subtle, like the work of a fragrance.
It is not just brute facts landing hard on someone’s mind, but an aroma wafting into a heart. And this light contact proves to be life or death.
Such is the astonishing power of the gospel of God.
The primary barrier to displaying the beauty of Jesus in our churches comes from the way we re-insert ourselves into that sacred center that belongs to Him alone.
Exalting ourselves always diminishes His visibility.
That is why cultivating a gospel culture requires a profound, moment by moment, ‘unselfing’ by every one of us.
Sometimes, we’re too quick to play this card.
I’ve been thinking a lot about grace in light of the newly ignited outrage towards R. Kelly. It’s amazing how much repressed anger a documentary can unearth.
I totally get it, though.
The sexual misconduct that R. Kelly has been charged with is heinous. As the father of two beautiful and precious daughters, I find myself particularly disgusted by the whole thing. I can’t even stomach the thought of my babies being in the situations that those young girls were in.
Having said that, there are a few consistent reactions that I noticed, particularly on social media.
There are those in full sympathy and support of the victims, screaming in outrage at not only R. Kelly, but the many people around him who knowingly (or unknowingly) enabled his behavior.
There are also those who have purposed in their hearts to “mute” the man, deleting his songs from their playlists…or in the case of fellow musicians, removing any trace of collaboration with him.
Others have been quick to point out the hypocrisy of anyone who would point a finger at R. Kelly, citing several other male celebrities, preachers included, that have been accused of similar crimes, but not condemned nearly as much in the court of public opinion.
And then there are those who are actually coming to Kelly’s defense, pointing out that he himself was abused, that his music is still good regardless of his behavior, and that he needs grace just like the rest of us.
There it is…the grace card.
I know that phrase sounds eerily like another phrase that describes the idea of bringing a certain controversial factor into a situation too quickly. The wordplay was intentional, and here’s why.
I think there are times when we play the grace card too quickly.
I’m not denying the dire need for grace for even the most wretched of people. I would consider myself first on that list.
But let’s stop and think about something for a moment. How must the victims of R. Kelly feel when they see posts defending the man who preyed on them…and has yet to even apologize for it? How do victims of any sexual abuse feel when people they don’t even know are so quick to speak up for the victimizer?
Extending grace is essential…but it does not mean that we skip holding people accountable for what they’ve done. Even God’s grace, though it covers our sin, doesn’t cover it up. If anything, it empowers us to own up to our transgressions, no matter how awful.
Speaking of awful, I pray that the victims in this awful situation can somehow find healing in the midst of it. I can only imagine how hard it must be for them.
And yes, I do pray that R. Kelly will someday find the same grace and mercy that I have found in Jesus…but after he has repented to the victims and come to grips with his actions.
And I pray that we as a society, especially the church, will learn to play the grace card at the right time more consistently.
“Let us be today’s Christians.
Let us not take fright at the boldness of today’s church. With Christ’s light, let us illuminate even the most hideous caverns of the human person: torture, jail, plunder, want, chronic illness.
The oppressed must be saved, not with a revolutionary salvation, in mere human fashion, but with the holy revolution of the Son of Man, who dies on the cross to cleanse God’s image, which is soiled in today’s humanity, a humanity so enslaved, so selfish, so sinful.”
~ Oscar A. Romero
“When we struggle for human rights, for freedom, for dignity, when we feel that it is a ministry of the church to concern itself for those who are hungry, for those who have no schools, for those who are deprived, we are not departing from God’s promise.
He comes to free us from sin, and the church knows that sin’s consequences are all such injustices and abuses. The church knows it is saving the world when it undertakes to speak also of such things.”
~ Oscar A. Romero
“I think one of the great strengths of the church is when it serves as an oasis within the culture, and offers a distinctive alternative to the prevailing values surrounding it.
Unfortunately, the attitude in many modern churches is, ‘No, we need to be just like the culture in order to draw as many as we can.’
But when you don’t offer people something that is genuinely different, then they’ll question why they need to be there in the first place.”
~ Skye Jethani
“No church can truly be the church if its pastor or congregation are unwilling to speak hard truths to each other and to themselves.
To think of the pastorate as primarily a helping profession, and the church as only a therapeutic community whose main goal is to make us feel better about ourselves…
…instead of giving people what they actually need to be healthy…
…is a betrayal of the gospel and the church’s mission.”
~ Ron Dreher
“In the beginning (New Testament times), the church was a gathering of men and women around the person and mission of Jesus.
Then it moved to Greece, where the church became a philosophy.
Then it moved to Rome, where the church became an institution.
Then it moved to Europe, where the church became a culture.
And it’s finally come to America, where the church has become an enterprise.
The reason for this is that as the church has moved throughout the world, it has taken on the forms/structures that were dominant in whatever culture it went.
In the early church, the dominant organizing principle of the culture was the household…the family.”
~ Richard Halverson