The Grace/Sin Collision

grace v sin

I heard a story of a preacher recently that rocked me to the core.  It bothered me so much that I have thought about it for TWO WEEKS.  This is what happened:

An unmarried lady who was coming to this preacher’s (we will call him Marty Marvelous) church, was pregnant.  Some of the ladies in the congregation decided to have a baby shower for this lady.  Presumably, this was out of the goodness of their hearts, because they knew this lady was gonna need stuff for the baby.  Well, Marty was not happy about throwing a party for a “knocked-up” lady, perhaps thinking that this would be celebrating sin, so he stopped it altogether.  In fact, he was so proud of this fact, that Marty preached a sermon to another group of churches in which he said something like, “That wouldn’t have been a baby shower, it would have been a fornication shower.” (Him preaching to this group is how I heard about it.)

So here is my wondering: Is there a balance we have to strike between calling SIN, SIN and showing mercy and grace and helping someone in need?  Where is that balance?

Here’s what bothered me:  It was while we were in the midst of our sin that Jesus showed the full extent of His grace!  Romans 5:8. Why does it seem that His Church has the most trouble reflecting that?  Why does it seem that I have so much trouble reflecting that?

I often struggle between being PROPHETIC and being PASTORAL.  By prophetic, I mean calling out for living in the midst of God’s ideals.  I know that God prescribes a certain way of doing life because IT IS THE BEST WAY. Sometimes, all I want to do is SHOUT that way of life from the rooftops.  But I also know that many people, including me, OFTEN fail at living God’s best.  And in those times, need a pastor. By pastoral, I mean coming along and extending grace and peace to the broken and fallen.  They don’t need a lecture, condemnation, or sermon.  They need a friend.  Really, they need a company of friends.

Am I the only one that has this struggle?  How have you dealt with it?  Where has the grace/sin collision hit you?

the johnsons

So, some of you have been with me on my life journey for a long time, and some are new around here.  First, let me welcome you to grace unfiltered.  I hope this place will be for honest and frank discussions about faith, grace, and life.  What I mean by unfiltered is this: I want this to be a place that is not bogged down in rhetoric, jargon and other form of christianese.  This is a place for real people to have open and honest and frank discussions.

But, before the conversations begin, I want you to know a little more about me.  My family crest, designed by wife and I, reflects what is most important to us as a family, and specifically to me as person:

metal cross project with double border

Love, Faith, Courage, Passion and Grace.  My goal in life is to be defined by these 5 words.

Love: Doing what is best for someone else.

Grace: Offering those around me second chances.

Courage: Not shrinking back, but rather fighting for those who have no one to fight for them.

Faith: Trusting that God’s plans for my life are the best plans.

Passion: Making an intentional purpose to be doing things that drive me, and are flowing from my heart, my passion.

This is who I am, and who I am becoming.

So, if you could pick 5 words to describe you, what would they be and why?

Calories & Haiti…

I have begun paying attention to how many calories I take in everyday. Although I am all about authenticity, I cannot bring myself to admit how many calories I was taking in everyday.  (By the way, I was inspired to pay attention by a friend. Thanks, Sean.)  Anyway, my new awareness has brought a few changes.  It also reminded me of a story from my previous trip to Haiti.

We didn’t like to take breaks in Haiti.  At Christianville, in the mornings we taught and connected with local church leaders.  After lunch we either went to visit and encourage the mission stations (medical, dental, school, etc) or did odd jobs around the place.  One fella loved mowing, so he mowed. He noticed, and pointed out later, that many of the Haitians working out there alongside him took frequent breaks.  It irritated him, and me.  It seemed like laziness.  We didn’t mind busting our tails to help, but we didn’t like them slacking off.

Our group leader, with 20+ years of Haiti experience, explained the situation, which broke us down.  You see, most of these Haitians didn’t get very much food in a day, and in turn not many calories.  My physical science lessons were refreshed in my mind, and I remembered that calories were a measurement unit of energy.  The body is designed to take in energy through calories (mostly in food), and use that energy with activity.  These Haitians weren’t taking in enough calories daily to perform a day’s work. And here we were, overweight American preachers. (Calories unused become, you guessed it, FAT!)

I read a quote recently that went something like this:  “The poor in the world see us as having a feast, serving cake and eating it too, and inviting them only to tea time and THEN asking them to split the bill.”  I don’t quote this as a political, policy, or any other kind of statement, except to say that my heart is broken over my excess in the midst of their want.

Jesus said: “Whenever you failed to do one of these things [feed hungry, water thirsty, visit outcast, etc] to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me—you failed to do it to me.” (Matt 25:45 MSG)

A Heart For Haiti

I have a passion for the people of Haiti.  I want to extend to them the love and grace of Jesus in a tangible and real way.  Two years ago, I went to Haiti for the first time, and it was a beautiful, wretched experience.

It was wretched to see the level of destitute poverty that plagues that nation.  As many of you know, Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  The desperation was written on most faces I saw as we drove through the capital, Port au Prince. I remember the 3-year old infant (yes, I mean infant) who was so malnourished she couldn’t walk.  But she was starting to grow, finally, and had this adorable scooting movement she did. And I remember her scooting to me every time she saw me. Here is a picture of her (and Mo, behind) sitting to play with me.

Mama and Mo

But I also saw something beautiful.  I saw the church. The Church.  They were extending grace AND truth.  I think back to Sue, who at that time had 7 infant orphans living in her house, besides the 30-40 other orphans who lived at the orphanage. I saw The Church giving the people exactly what they needed.  Not JUST the message shoved down their throat, but handing them the beautiful grace of Jesus on the silver platter of quality health care, clean water, and an education.  They still shared Jesus with them, but in the midst of loving them, not apart from it. By the way, the little girl’s name (above) is Hope. And because of the Church she has hope.

We spent the majority of our time investing in the church there.  In this picture, you will see the group of church leaders we spent time teaching, encouraging and connecting with.

C-Ville Preachers

Haiti was a strange place.  I found out what it felt like to be an outsider. (Not a reject, though.  I was looked up to, but an outsider, for sure.) I have never been in a place where I made an astronomically greater amount of money than anyone around me.  Every Haitian who looked at me knew that I was ‘rich’.  Not here in America, of course, but in Haiti, where it is normal to make $300-$500 a year, my preacher’s salary was a vast fortune.  And of course, mine was a white face in a sea of black.

Well, enough reminiscing.  Just wanted to tell my blog followers that I was headed back.  I am joining a group of other guys in January to go and invest in the Church some more.  We are breaking up and visiting village churches, encouraging, empowering and giving to them.

Here are a few other pics.

OrphansSchool @ PouilleChurch under Construction

Idio(t?)syncrasies…

Do crazy people know they are crazy?  If not, how do I know I am not crazy?  Do weird people know they are weird, or do they place what they do in the realm of normal, like the rest of us?  If they don’t know, how do I know I am not weird? Wow. (This really doesn’t bother me, I am just having a little fun today….)

Do you have little weird tendencies, often referred to as idiosyncrasies?  I know I have a few.   My personal favorite is my obsession with clocks being set to the right time.  A flashing 12:00 drives me absolutely crazy!  My parent learned this as I was growing up, and thus stopped trying to even figure out how to set clocks.  Whether it was their alarm clock, their car radio clock or whatever.  They just knew if I saw it, I would fix it.  In fact, I mastered all of our clocks.  Yes, I even did it to other people’s clocks. “Yeah, I know it’s the wrong time, but I just can’t seem to fix it” was music to my ears. I always got it. Always.

Anyway, do you think we all have these kinda things?  What’s yours?  Or do you just think I have idioTsyncrasies?