What’s So Amazing About Grace?

I want to share an excerpt from Philip Yancey’s book What’s so Amazing About Grace? I just finished reading it and wow. It is a challenging book. It is a book that challenges my understanding of the depths of grace that God gives to us. I would highly encourage everyone to read it.

While reading it, I was slightly disheartened at the way he describes the responses of many Christians in regards to culture and the way our society is going. The vitriol of some Christians writing letters to Yancey and others simply astounded me. As followers of Christ, we must be better able to engage the culture with grace and truth. The truth that is not balanced with love can be unloving. Sometimes we can be so focused on pointing out the bad news of someone else’s sin that we forget to also communicate the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ. Realization of the bad news should lead us to the good news, but too often we communicate only the bad news, which is truth. But love shares the whole story. We are a complex creation, and we need to treat every single person, regardless of his or her actions, as the image of God. We understand and defend this regarding unborn children, but can too easily forget it when, for example, we are across the aisle from someone from the LGBT community.

I hope and pray that you will read these words and consider next time the way that you interact with someone reveals to them who Christ is. Are you proud of the reputation your actions (whether on social media outlets or in person) are making of Christ?

“Jesus came to found a new kind of kingdom that could coexist in Jerusalem and also spread into Judea, Samaria, and the uttermost parts of the earth. In a parable he warned that those farmers who concentrate on pulling up weeds…may destroy the wheat along with the weeds. Leave matters of judgment to the one true Judge, Jesus advised.

The apostle Paul had much to say about the immorality of individual church members but little to say about the immorality of pagan Rome. He rarely railed against the abuses in Rome–slavery, idolatry, violent games, political oppression, greed–even though such abuses surely offended Christians of that day as much as our deteriorating society offends Christians today.

When I went to the White House to visit President Clinton, I knew well that his reputation among conservative Christians hinged on two issues: abortion and homosexual rights. I agree fully that these are important moral issues which Christians must address. But when I went through the New Testament I could find very little related to either one. Both practices existed then, in a different and more egregious form. Roman citizens did not rely principally on abortion for birth control. The women bore their babies, then abandoned them by the side of the road for wild animals or vultures. Likewise, Romans and Greeks also practiced a form of same-gender sex: older men commonly used young boys as their sex slaves, in pederasty.

Thus in Jesus’ and Paul’s day both these moral issues asserted themselves in ways that today would be criminal in any civilized country on earth. No country allows a person to kill a full-term, delivered baby. No country legally permits sex with children. Jesus and Paul doubtless knew of these deplorable practices. And yet Jesus said nothing about either one, and Paul made only a few references to cross-gender sex. Both concentrated not on the pagan kingdom around them but on the alternative kingdom of God.

For this reason, I wonder about the enormous energy being devoted these days to restoring morality to the United States. Are we concentrating more on the kingdom of this world than on the kingdom that is not of this world? The public image of the evangelical church today is practically defined by an emphasis on two issues that Jesus did not even mention. How will we feel if historians of the future look back on the evangelical church of the 1990s and declare, “They fought bravely on the moral fronts of abortion and homosexual rights,” while at the same time reporting that we did little to fulfill the Great Commission, and we did little to spread the aroma of grace in the world?”

This was written in 1997. I think the message is timeless.


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