Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Sin Overload Part 3: Grateful for Grace

Welcome back! In Part 1 of this series I ranted about how people experience a condition that I call "sin overload," which occurs when you really bare your soul to another churchgoer. The person freaks out about just how much of a sinner you are and looks at you like you have leprosy. In Part 2 we explored how sin overload begins when we misunderstand God's nature, which leads us to a misunderstanding of our own nature. In Part 3 we will look at how a misunderstanding of our own nature leads to a misperception of Grace, which leads directly to sin overload. If all of this sounds kinda like gibberish, don't worry, we'll definitely recap in plain English at the end.

A man's perception of grace is directly proportional to his perception of sin. Or in the words of Martin Luther, "God does not save those who are only imaginary sinners. Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong (sin boldly), but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world." (Letter 99, Paragraph 13). We wander around thinking that sin is just a matter of little things that we do to displease God. I cannot think of a definition that is farther from the Truth. Our sinfulness is the attitude and execution of rebellion. It is treason and betrayal. It is pride and prejudice against a loving God. As it turns out those little things we do are only the leak in the sieve that is our facade.
With little to no true concept of our own sin we simply cannot understand the extent of God's grace. When we become legalistic and pharasaical the answer is to rediscover grace, but this is not as easy as thinking about some picture of Jesus on a cross. It is a long process of rediscovering who God is and, therefore, the depth of our sin. Then, the grace that God gives seems a worthy thing to be given by such an awe inspiring being. Then, Amazing Grace goes from being overplayed to being your favorite hymn. Then, we can't wait to give grace to others.
The problem is, there aren't five simple steps for this. This is not the kind of skin deep repentance where you stop smoking, and cussing. There is nothing that you can do to force it, and it all sounds so painful. We are too busy worrying about our "best life now" to dig deep and think about things that we barely understand. So what do we do? We settle for a grace that is cheap. We are offered golden coins, but we prefer the kind with chocolate inside. And with no experience of true grace, we cannot offer it to others.
Without an understanding of the grace that God gives to us, we find it impossible to extend that grace to others. People can extend grace if you have used drugs because they also used drugs or because they know someone who has, but if you are gay or have AIDS they just can't see past that. They can't see your infinite value to God because they don't know of their own infinite value. This is the hypocrisy that exists within the church and it is of a most dangerous variety: assigning differing weights to sin, and limiting the scope of grace. It is these attitudes that lead us to stare at a man in disbelief when he truly exposes himself.

You often have to endure terror to experience the thrill that comes when it is over. That is what I am asking of you. You have to immerse yourself in God in order to find out who he is. When this begins to happen, you will eventually find yourself confronted with everything that you are not. This is where most people turn away, but if you push through the darkest parts of your soul, you will emerge on the other side having discovered grace like never before.

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