I recently read an article about a teacher and volleyball coach at a Christian school in Texas who was fired because she became pregnant out of wedlock. (Here is a link to that article.) I understand why she was fired. I understand she violated a “moral clause” in her contract. But still, there is an internal struggle I have with these types of issues. I ask myself, “Where is grace?”
I began my first pastorate at the age of 23. The church that I was pastoring at the time had a daycare. Unbeknownst to me, a few weeks before the church called me to be their pastor, the daycare fired a teacher for the same reason as the Texas teacher. A couple weeks after I started my pastorate, while I was sitting in my office, I received a letter from the the lawyer of the teacher the daycare had fired threatening to sue the church and daycare for wrongful termination. Fortunately, it was just a threat. At the time, being young and pious, I agreed with the daycare’s decision. Now, I am not sure if I would agree with that decision or the decision the school in Texas made.
I think grace requires us to look at each situation individually and to make a decision based on how to best help people move closer to God. The question should never be, “How is this going to make the institution look?” The question should always be, “How can we best show the love and grace of Christ to this person?” The problem is, institutions like the school in Texas and church based daycares, and Christian colleges have policies that must be followed.
Sometimes our policies squeeze grace out of the picture.
Since my first pastorate was not that far from a Christian college, I had a lot of students attend my church. Many of them went through difficulties while at school. I was privileged to walk with some of them through some pretty tough disciplinary actions. Each time, I asked myself and the administration, “Where is grace?” And every time the answer from the administration was, “We have policies to follow.” (In all fairness to the college, I think grace was extended. Every student I know asked to leave campus for disciplinary reasons were allowed to return at a future time. Most did. Many graduated. Some are in ministry today.)
The one thing that differentiates Christianity from all other world religions is our understanding of grace. It seems to me our belief in grace should make us the most grace giving people around. But instead, too often, our reputation in the broader world is that we are legalistic, pharisaical, and judgmental. Too often, I think, we have earned that reputation.
This has got to change!
Somehow, we have got to figure out a way to stand for holiness while making room for large amounts of grace.
Are we squeezing out grace when we add hoops people have to jump through to attend or join our churches?
Are we being judgmental when we make people who are not as “religious” as we think they should be feel bad about themselves?
Can we extend grace to the prostitute, drug addict, felon, whoremonger, or alcoholic?
Do we live in close enough proximity to prostitutes, drug addicts, felons, whoremongers, or alcoholics to actually touch them with grace?
Do we intentionally avoid people who need grace the most?
Is there room in our churches to love and embrace homosexuals, showing them grace that leads to repentance, instead of judgment that leads to rejection?
Can we really be considered a follower of Jesus if we have not at least once been accused of hanging around and socializing with “sinners and tax-collectors”?
Does our concern for our reputation conflict with our call to extend grace?
Do we really believe in free grace?