Sometimes I struggle with which side of the line to walk on when it comes to grace and tolerance. The easiest thing in the world to do is to find or make your own list of rules to live by. Rules and lists are great and are hard to argue with; either you are right or you are wrong when it comes to your actions. However, rules and lists do not always help with our reaction or response when we are wrong. Let's face it, we are human, we are wrong a lot of the time. Not knowing how to respond to our wrong attitude and actions can leave us either in denial or filled with guilt.
Many people are so pre-occupied with the list and measuring people against it, they don't have time to consider how to deal with those who offend. For them it is more important to be able to identify the offense then to actually deal with it. These people leave a lot of bodies laying around as they accuse and kill people, thinking that this is the proper thing to do. I wish these folks could read more than just the damning part of the Word of God, that they would read beyond the accusation and sentencing, and see the beauty of God's response to a people born to imperfection and sin. Sin is everything that comes against the purity and holiness of our God and it is the reason why we all deserve nothing more than death for simply breathing. Our very existence is an abomination against God's holiness. Yet, God's grace is shown time and again from the first page to the last page of the Word of God, and it demonstrates his response to the breaking of the list of rules.
We keep forgetting that our God is not crafted in our image, we we are made in his. This speaks to the character that he designed us to have but which we fail in. He gave us Jesus to show us what his perfection looks like and then he gave us the Holy Spirit to help transform us into the character of Jesus. But even Jesus' birth was the result of God using everything for our benefit, even sin. Have you looked at his genealogy? Do you see the names that are mentioned there? How do you feel about this?
Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab,
Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,
Obed the father of Jesse,
and Jesse the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah's wife, (Matthew 1:5-6)
There are a few rule breakers in just this small section of Jesus' genealogy. The Israelites were not permitted to marry foreigners. Who were Rahab and Ruth? Rahab was a prostitute from Jericho, the city God destroyed as Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Ruth was a widowed Moabite woman who showed faithfulness to her mother-in-law. According to the rules these unions should not have happened. Then there is the real biggie and Matthew emphasized it here as he points out that Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba, who had been Uriah's wife. You want to talk about your rule breaking, here is a whole list of them; lust, greed, sexual sins, premeditated murder, lying; it's all here.
Please do not take me wrong , God was not pleased. It resulted in the death of their baby and trouble returning to Israel. It eventually ended up with a weak Israel that split into two separate nations. There are consequences to rule breaking but look at God's response to it. Solomon was born and became king. The most majestic king of Israel's history. It was also from this line that God chose to have his only Son enter into creation. There is a great deal of grace here, God using broken rules for our benefit.
I am not trying to be flippant when it comes to sinning against the purity and holiness of our God. When unchecked, without correction and repentance, such sin leads to death. The Word is very clear on it. But the Word is also clear that our mission, ministry, is that or reconciliation not condemnation. We have to do more than just look for law breakers. We have to have it clear in our mind, fixed there for as long as we have breath in us, what our response is when we or others break the rules. Did Jesus save us from death so that we could have the opportunity to stone the law-breakers? Or did he save us so that we could be part of a team that is working to convey God's love and grace to those who are lost in sin, shame and guilt?
We have so many examples of how God shows grace to those who deserve death and we see an example every time we look in the mirror. There are natural consequences to sin, the breaking of the rules. We have been given the rules for a reason, to protect us and help us; that's the purpose of most rules in life. However, as the dust settles God needs his people there to attend to the wounded in love, not condemnation. He needs us to convey the message that God can make something beautiful out our messes if we give him that opportunity. Part of our task is explaining the strength of his forgiveness by accepting it and demonstrating it in our own lives. We can't live what we do not understand.
The ministry of stone throwing belongs to the enemy and not to God's Kingdom. We live in an age of grace from which God's love for the family and for the rule-breakers shines out to cover this world. We are ministers of reconciliation and our message in word and dead should be that of God's ability to make beautiful things out of our ugly lives. Our Father forgives everything when our repentance is sincere. Do not walk around with the burden of guilt and do not let anyone else do it either. You know the way so take it and bring along as many people as you can.