What does grace say to you? Not me, not the person, but the religious concept. Wait, you say, I'm not a theologian. I don't care about the ins and outs of a religious theory. Well, I didn't either, until I started really studying this subject of God's Grace and its impact on my life. It changed me fundamentally and gave me the freedom to be Christian, yes, even a lesbian Christian because of grace.
Charles Swindoll's book, The Grace Awakening, read from a gay perspective whether he intended that or not, is an amazing study of the freedom of grace. He begins by saying:
"There are killers on the loose today. The problem is that you can't tell by looking. They don't wear little buttons that give away their identity, nor do they carry signs warning everybody to stay away. On the contrary, a lot of them carry Bibles and appear to be clean-living, nice-looking, law-abiding citizens. Most of them spend a lot of time in churches, some in places of religious leadership. Many are so respected in the community, their neighbors would never guess they are living next door to killers. They kill freedom, spontaneity, and creativity; they kill joy as well as productivity. They kill with their words and their pens and their looks. They kill with their attitudes far more often than with their behavior."
Paul declares in Ephesians 2:8-9:
"For by grace you have been saved though faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not the results of works so that no one may boast."
There's nothing in that verse that says "except for homosexuals." What a gift. I can be the person God created me to be. And not even those killers Swindoll was talking about can remove the power of this grace from me. You know how it makes you feel when someone gives you a quite valuable gift and doesn't expect anything in return? That's how I feel about this grace. Holding God's Grace in my heart and my spiritual hands gives me such an awe-struck feeling! Wow. I didn't do, indeed, can't do anything to deserve this gift of God, salvation from my sins through grace. And God has accepted me just the way I am, no overhaul needed.
Those that Swindoll was talking about are not living the truth of grace. They are grace killers. Jesus brought us grace and modeled freedom, yet many people live as though they are imprisoned in rules, in expectations, in religious duties, no matter how unChristian those attitudes may be. They work so hard at making sure they follow all the rules (as they see them) and making sure that all those around them also follow their version of the rules. Their lives simply don't reflect the joy of grace.
Because grace is not a concept they have embraced, they reduce the practice of faith into a set of rules and regulations. With their rigid checklist in hand, they separate others into catagories according to adherence to their rules. How sad, not only for the grace killers, but also for those they impose arbitary codes of behavior.
But grace means freedom from the bondage of sin and full, unqualified acceptance by God. No longer am I bound by the negativity of the grace killers telling me that just because I'm gay, I can't be a Christian. I know better because I have experienced the miracle of God's grace.
Jesus came into a world that was fettered by legalism, rules that the religious wanna-bees could follow to make them holy enough. But Jesus introduced a revolutionary way of life. His "come unto me" was open, free of qualifiers, and absolute grace.
Following Jesus around must have had quite an impact on the disciples. Here was their leader challenging the attitudes of the religious leaders. The Pharisees, who were the religious right of their day, were narrowly focused on duty and external conduct. It didn't matter so much what their lives were in relation to God or others, as long as their religious community approved of their dogged observance of what they deemed was righteous behavior.
Today it is much the same. Like the Pharisees, many in the religious right focus on what is right and wrong, most especially in other peoples' lives. The result is a pseudo-religion that is harsh judgmentalism. Being a Christian for them boils down to a blind obedience to an artificial list of do's and don'ts rather than an expression of spontaneous joy of grace. This is bondage of fear, serving God out of a feeling of guilt rather than joy.
Why do so many Christians live in bondage rather than grace? Could it be they don't understand the term, grace? It takes a certain measure of courage to disagree with a rigid religious system if your whole life is caught up in trying to be a modern day Pharisee.
I'm so glad now that I don't have to mold anybody else's faith to mine. That is between them and God. For me, grace says I am a member of the family of God, forgiven, loved, accepted, and yes, gay because that is the way God created me.
By grace I am saved, through faith, and not of my own works, because nothing I can do would ever be enough. Wow. Loved by God.
Thanks be to God.
Charles R. Swindoll
John J. McNeill
Other Writings By Grace Jannsen: