Recently, I shared an extra long post on Confession for the Generational Sin of Slavery and Racism, what our small denomination has challenged us to do about it and what our pastor challenged our church with the Sunday before. Of course, it got to my heart in new ways as well. The link to the sermon is here.
I shared some resources that have been personally challenging to me as I grow in this area. But I know I overloaded that post. Sadly, I wasn’t able to pass on some of the more hopeful aspects, both of the sermon and of the gospel that we were reminded of that day. (When I share resources, I don’t always agree with everything they say. I share them because aspects of them have stimulated my thinking.)
This post is about the comfort of GOD’s forgiveness with the richness of His mercy and grace!
This post is about the comfort of GOD’s forgiveness. It is about His rich mercy and grace. I don’t have to do penance by walking around in my guilt to show how sorry I am. I am forgiven. Now I can move forward and replace a life of living in guilt with a life of love and openness to those I have sinned against. I will still fail. But my heart is changing toward a group. I am more aware of my own biases.Forgiveness is not about doing the penance of guilt for a time. It is about living a life of love and vulnerability toward those I have wronged. Click To Tweet
Interestingly, something in my heart was prepared for this sermon because of a joke I passed on, on Facebook. Some of my children and a son-in-law called me on it as well as a friend from high school. They all told me to take down the joke because it was a racist joke. I did.
But I thought about why I thought it was funny. Was it because it was about someone who was black? Not really. It could just as easily been someone who was poor, country and white. The joke was making fun of someone who was less educated, less literate, probably less intelligent than I am. Either way, it was in poor taste.Forgiveness for generational sins means I will still fail, but I repent when I do and keep living out love and vulnerability toward those that may have been my enemy in the past. Click To Tweet
Sometimes our racism is so intertwined with our coldness toward the poor and disenfranchised, that it is difficult to separate the two
So does that make it ok? NO! It may not be racist on its face, even though the specifics of the joke were about a black person, but making fun of people who are less privileged is just as unchristian! And that issue was part of the sermon as well. Often our racism is linked to a lack of care for the poor and underprivileged.
We don’t want to pay the price we need to, to help and care for them. It is too easy for us to look at ourselves and think we actually had something to do with our accomplishments, our place in society, our privileges, where we were born, etc. when we had absolutely NO control over our birth or our race specifically. We see ourselves as self-made because we have worked hard and done the “right” things and gotten to where we are…wherever that place is.
We have no control over our race, the degree of privilege we have, our support system or our health. We can’t control any of those things. Yes, we can build on what we have. But there is a limit to the amount of control we have over those things.
We don’t stop to consider that where we are is pure grace from GOD and it can be gone in a second. GOD gave us the health to be able to work, the intelligence and ability to get educations or do our jobs, the resources in terms of family, finances, support, etc. It has been His good providence that has given us what we have and it can be gone in no time once He chooses to take it away for whatever reason. An injury or disease can hit, misfortune can hit and it can all be gone! Sometimes temporarily, sometimes for good.
Watching patients over the years, who have been injured at work, been in auto accidents they had no control over, or been attacked by disease, makes me realize we don’t have control over our own destiny. It is humbling to realize GOD has given us good health for a time, to provide for our families. But it doesn’t last. Our world is very temporary. Today’s person of wealth could be tomorrow’s person of need. We never know. It is not something to fear. It is something for which to trust GOD and His providence.
The only standing that stays the same is our standing before GOD. If we have trusted Christ alone for our salvation, repented of the things we trust in to save us, and turned from them, we are His. That is safe and sure. It is as sure as GOD’s promises. As secure as the salvation He provided for us on the cross. Now, we need to provide that security for those who come to Christ to worship in our local churches.
Our churches are not clubs for exclusive friends to meet who have it all together. They are hospitals for the sick, wounded and hurting who come together to worship GOD whose grace has met us all at the same place…a place of brokenness.
We need to see our churches, not as clubs for exclusive members, but as hospitals for sick and wounded. If we look at our churches as hospitals and both our members and especially our visitors, no matter how they look, as people who are broken, we will greet them in much different ways than we often do. Those who look good and those who look a mess are all in need of genuine hospitality, encouragement, love, embracing, when they walk through the doors of our churches. We will see people at church as those who are just like us on our bad days. They may be lonely, dry, empty, in need of comfort…no matter how great they look on the outside. We can’t be fooled by outside appearances. Nothing has fooled me more, as a pastor’s wife, as outward appearances. I can’t let it get in the way of reaching out to comfort and encourage.
Sometimes, we need to be inconvenienced in order to have our churches become more diverse. Will we need to change an aspect of our service in order to make our worship a place where others will be more comfortable in our worship? Maybe. Of course, I’m not saying we need to compromise the gospel.
Will we need to include more of another language and have some translating? Or perhaps add some new songs or styles of music we are less comfortable with in order to enhance the worship of other christian brothers and sisters? Or maybe allow for less personal space if they are huggers and we aren’t?
What do we need to do to make our churches look like our communities? What sacrifices do we need to make?
I don’t know what GOD is calling your church to do in order to bring more diversity. But, are you willing to begin praying to that end? Are you willing to give up some of your white privilege…or whatever kind of privilege you feel you may or may not have, in order for the gospel to become more real to someone who looks different from you?
Forgiveness is rich and free and is demonstrated by GOD’s grace found in Jesus Christ. His mercy was shown in abundance to us. Are we truly showing it to the world around us? We say we love our world, but do we love our world enough to make ourselves uncomfortable? In ways Jesus did when He left heaven?
I say these words to you, but I need to think about them for myself as well…and chew on them. Join me.
Meanwhile, we can enjoy the rich mercy and grace of Christ as He forgives us our failures. Are we racist? Do we fail to care for the poor and disenfranchised? Do we care for widows and orphans? (I think many single moms, divorced women would fit here as they struggle with loneliness and often resentment.)
Then the King will say to those on his right,
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father,
inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
For I was hungry and you gave me food,
I was thirsty and you gave me drink,
I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
I was naked and you clothed me,
I was sick and you visited me,
I was in prison and you came to me.’
Then the righteous will answer him, saying,
‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?
And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you,
as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.
PS. I tried to untangle this post that turned into a combination of two really. But I couldn’t get it separated. Hopefully a few of you will take time to read it.