If you have ever watched The Bachelor, you and I probably have nothing in common. Just kidding. But not really. It would not matter to me if this show got canceled, but it is instructive that the host got canceled. Which you can read about here, but the short version is that a contestant on the show attended an Antebellum themed party in 2018. Her social media history, as well as her dad’s voting record, were then gone through with a fine tooth comb. Chris Harrison, who has hosted the show since its debut almost 20 years ago, suggested that before the mob came for her with pitchforks they should show a little grace. This led to a Change.org petition to cancel him, which worked.
There is no way for people to be non-religious. Look at that most atheistic societies in our world, like North Korea, and you will find all the pageantry, worship, and formalism of the most advanced temple rituals. All religions seek after righteousness, which may come in the form of enlightenment or spiritual advancement or perhaps something as basic as the favor of the gods. But in all man-made religions, the effort of the worshiper to attain this righteousness is necessary. This plays out for us in the Bachelor cancellation case as the contestant failed to properly honor the code and by suggesting her sins were not worthy of immediate condemnation, Harrison associated himself with her sins. His way back to righteousness? To own his shame in an abject apology that is now well scripted by every PR firm in America: I deeply regret my insensitivity. I realize now that my words/behavior were harmful to the __________ community and I am going to spend some time reflecting on my own privilege.
All of which led me to think about how truly breathtaking the gospel of Jesus Christ really is, and how offensive is its grace! Sins – real ones, not the imagined ones of the current demos – that were unpardonable are wiped clean in a moment. The Samaritan woman who has had five husbands and is now shacked up with another man finds herself talking in public about Jesus with the very crowd she used to hide from in shame. The greedy tax collector who pads his pockets with the hard earned money of his own kinsman dines with the Master. The thief dying on the cross for crimes he committed will soon be in Paradise. The “sinner” woman who washes the feet of Jesus with her tears and dries them with her hair is sent on her way washed from her sins. The fisherman who denies knowing His own Savior becomes the first to preach the resurrection of that Savior. How momentously instant is the pardon of God! And yes, this grace is not “cheap grace”. The tax collector returns the money he stole. The fisherman goes to his own martyrdom. The repentance is genuine. But it is not effort on the part of the penitent but grace on the part of God that makes the difference.
But how offensive this gospel is to the self righteous. In what is perhaps the most explicit parable of God’s attitude toward His rebellious children, Jesus tells the story of the prodigal son. This story ends with the joy of a father at receiving back his lost son, but the bitter resentment of one brother towards his own Father for offering such undeserved pardon. This attitude of resentment, judgmentalism, and superiority were characterized by those in Israel who thought themselves to have no need of a physician, and thought little of those that did. Another parable of Jesus focuses on the forgiveness received by the penitent publican who smote his own breast while publicly acknowledging his unworthiness to even lift his eyes toward heaven, versus the self confidence of the Pharisee who was satisfied to be superior to the publican. Which one went on his way justified?
This kind of gospel is not just on the pages of Scripture, but actually plays out around us in every day life. But for brevity, let me choose a couple of rare jewels to illustrate the larger point. Corrie ten Boom’s family hid Jewish refugees from Nazi’s in their home in the Netherlands until they were betrayed by a fellow Dutchman in 1944. Corrie and her sister Betsy were sent to Ravensbruck, a brutal Nazi death camp, while her father died in a prison cell. At Ravensbruck they were beaten, starved, raped, and Betsy was killed. Throughout all of this, Corrie kept her faith in God and returned to Ravensbruck in 1947 to share the message of God’s forgiveness to the German people who had so cruelly treated her family. But she could not have known that one man who listened to her speak of the gospel that day was the very guard who has mostly cruelly abused and terrorized her. Following her evangelism, he reached out his hand to her. Because she believed that Christ had forgiven her sins, she took his hand. She did not cancel him.
Compare that to the “sins” of Woke-ism and you can see how petty are its gods and how shallow is its grace. Even the mention of grace makes it froth at the mouth, eager not for mercy but for blood. Man made religions find the gospel of Jesus Christ scandalous. This is why there is no salvation or reconciliation in the new secular order. But in the gospel of Jesus Christ, there is pardon for every sin, because Jesus has taken the sins of the world upon His shoulders. The blood debt has already been paid by Jesus Christ, and so there is room for forgiveness at His Table. Because the mob cried “Crucify him!” you are able to forgive others. Freely you have received pardon; freely offer pardon. If your brother – your own brother! – sins against you seven times in a day you are to turn and forgive him. This is why in the church there is no wall between Jew and Gentile, between black and white, between poor and rich, or between powerful and powerless. In the Church, we are all powerless before God who extends mercy to all. But this is an offense to those who feel more worthy of grace than others.
I leave you with one more story of the grace of God, this one closer to our day and age. Botham Jean was in his own apartment when he was shot and killed by Amber Guyger, who claimed that she had gotten confused and believed she was walking into her own apartment. After her conviction, Botham’s brother Brandt was allowed to give a victim-impact statement, and rather than pour out his own wrath and bitterness he offered a reckless, free, lavish offer of grace that ended in forgiveness. Brandt refused to cancel the one who deprived him of his own brother.
One thought on “The Radical, Offensive Gospel of Grace”
Hallelujah! Tell me the gospel one more time… and then tell me again…a sinner forgiven by infinite, matchless, marvelous grace! This is food for the battered, hungry soul. God is so good. Keep reminding us, Nathan!
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