Here’s my problem with grace.
Terrorists attack New York City, killing thousands of people, and a conservative public figure follows an illogical accusation of feminists, gays, and pagans by saying that the people who died probably deserved it.
Forest fires ravage parts of southern California, and a famous radio and television host tells its victims they had it coming for hating America.
Young men die overseas, and a Baptist pastor brings his extended family to their funerals with signs saying “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates Cripple Soldiers.”
A hurricane takes a tremendous number of lives and livelihoods along the Gulf of Mexico, and the founder of a Christian organization blames the destruction on New Orleans’ wickedness.
An earthquake destroys much of the poorest country in the Americas, and a prominent televangelist tells them they brought it on themselves by making a pact with the devil.
A seven-year-old girl is beaten to death by her parents who are steadfastly following a parenting movement, and the author of that movement laughs in response.
A college student subjected to a cruel invasion of privacy ends his life, and it’s only a matter of time before someone issues the first official “good riddance” statement.
There are many, many Christians doing immeasurable good in the world, but it seems like the ones who get the most attention are the ones spewing prejudice, judgment, paranoia, and calls to violence. It makes me so furious I can’t see straight, their bitterness blurring my vision and reflected back at them. I don’t hear a trace of Jesus in what they say, but I’m afraid that their victims do, and the injustice eats me alive.
Enter my problem: The Jesus I know—the one who taught compassion and wonder and unfailing love, who healed heathens and hung out with society’s rejects, who befriended prostitutes, who famously wept at a funeral, whose words still inspire incredible acts of kindness—came to bring a double scoop of grace to people tied up in laws and traditions. He showed that all the religious regulations people tried to follow were tyrants and insatiable ones at that. He came, despite the murderous impulses of near-sighted men, to demonstrate the spacious love just beyond their line of vision.
Which means there is compassion for the Jerry Falwells and the Pat Robertsons of the world too. While the injustice of indiscriminate grace gnaws at me almost as much as Christian hate-rhetoric does, it’s also the main difference between the God they know and the God I am growing to know… and that one difference makes all the difference to me.