After a hiatus from all things social media, it is fun to be back to blogging again! I find that I really miss it after a while. I love writing and sharing my life, thoughts and story…. for whatever they are worth! For the past several weeks I have been digging in and doing some personal reflection. I have taken some time to focus on school and family, enjoying spring break and weekends without being distracted by social media. Don’t get me wrong- it was tough! Not checking Instagram, Twitter and Facebook everyday left me feeling VERY out of the loop. But time off was good.
Since many of my friends knew I was taking time away, they would kindly keep me filled in on what was going on the World. Some of the things I missed, I am glad I missed them. Within the span of a weekend I had some very heavy conversations with several dear ones close to me relating to some of the recent media tantrums. In light of these heavy discussions, I would like to have this post focused on a passage I have studied a few times, and each time it reaffirms what I believe Christ would have me look like in my daily life.
I’ll get to the passage in a moment, but first, since it is my blog and I get to share what I think on here, I would like to say that I am speaking to address several different topics but many that are recent and dangerously hot button issues. These kinds of issues are not new to Christianity, as Paul spent much of his time writing to churches that were struggling with the behavior of their members. What I feel is getting lost in these discussions is one of the most important factors in Christianity…grace. I absolutely agree that truth is imperative for Christians, but how can we so easily separate truth from grace?
Change comes from the inside out, not from the outside in- what’s in our heart leads to our behavior. Fruit stems from feeding the plant the right nourishment- it is fed and then it grows fruit. What we as Christians want to see all too often is the fruit, without being certain the nourishment is happening. We want to see change on the outside without taking notice of the condition of the heart.
I am all for calling sin, sin. I do it EVERYDAY in my own life. What I am much less an advocate of is calling out the sins of others without learning whether or not they have ever experienced the profound, beautiful, inspiring and life changing grace that is Jesus Christ. We are so quick to respond to the choices of others that we don’t look at the deeper issue, which is not their behavior but the condition of their heart. This is what Jesus did repeatedly in his journeys from city to city. He met a prostitute who humbled herself at his feet and he noticed the condition of her heart. He met a woman at a well and noticed the condition of her heart. He met a tax collector in a tree and noticed the condition of his heart. All of these individuals experienced truth, but they also experienced the grace that comes from Jesus. A heart saturated with the grace of Jesus is moved to respond. That is, to behave in ways that would make Him proud.
I am a first class sinner. I have been immoral, experienced addiction, treated my body like trash, destroyed relationships with hateful and angry words… the list goes on and on. From someone looking at me on the “right” side of the fence, I was a rebellious girl who needed Jesus. The funny thing is that I HAD HIM. I had accepted Christ as my savior when I was a nine-year old girl. But what I didn’t know about was grace. That it was free, all-encompassing, without any effort of my own. That it could change me just by revealing the intense love and acceptance Christ had for me. How did I discover grace? Jesus met me where I was… marred and completely weighed down in sin. He didn’t save me once my behavior was good. He didn’t forgive me because I earned his forgiveness. He revealed His grace to me and once I experienced it, it became more and more difficult to remain in the life I was living.
This is the power of the grace of Jesus Christ. If He gets a hold of you, you cannot continue to live comfortably in a life marred by sin. Sadly- the gospel has become lost in incorrect theology that says we must prove, earn, or work toward salvation. OR we learn the gospel I learned, yes you are saved by grace. But you sure better work really hard to prove to Jesus you deserved it and to prove to others you are really saved… after all, what if you think you are saved but you’re not? After studying the gospel for myself I have discovered the only things I HAVE to do is believe that Jesus died on the cross to take away the sin and shame I inherited from the garden of Eden and act on in my life, read my Bible for nourishment and growth, pray to my God to deepen my relationship, and love others. That is what Jesus has commanded. In doing these, I will exhibit fruit. Here is the passage I mentioned before my soap box:
“For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law can be summed up in a single commandment, namely, “YOU MUST LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” However, if you continually bite and devout one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, live by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh. For the flesh has desires that are opposed to the Spirit, and the Spirit has desires that are opposed to the flesh, for these are in opposition to each other, so that you cannot do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing and similar things. I am warning you, as I had warned you before: Those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God! But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit let us also behave in accordance to the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.” Galatians 5:13-26
In this passage, Flesh is the fallen human nature; selfish, self-focused, indulgent and prideful. To live according to the flesh is to live according to one’s own self-focused and prideful nature. To live in the Spirit is to be guided by the Holy Spirit, to allow for conviction to guide our decision-making and to obey the will of God over our own. Directly following the phrase, “do not use your freedom as an opportunity to indulge your flesh” is the statement “BUT (or instead) through love serve one another.” In this day and age, the lines between flesh and spirit have become blurred, as Christians with good intentions neglect the Spirit’s production of peace, kindness, love, gentleness and self-control, and instead give into hostilities, strife, outbursts of anger, and dissensions… all in the name of “truth” or calling sin, sin. There is no distinction between sin in the eyes of God. We can see anger and envy is in the same verse as sexual immorality and impurity. It is all according to the flesh. But here’s the thing, we were called to freedom. Not through our own actions (which result in fleshly behavior), but through the work of Jesus in our lives through the Holy Spirit. The bible doesn’t say the fruit of “those who try really hard” or of “those who are morally superior” is good. It says the fruit of the Spirit- against such things there is no law.
We Christians often see ourselves as Gospel gate-keepers, responsible for assuring those who are too sinful are called out and kept at bay, but this is prideful and misguided. We are not the gatekeepers, we are the ones who are responsible for bringing others to the gate. Jesus is the one who lets them in. “I am the way, the truth and the life. NO ONE comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Galatians says that those who live according to the flesh will not inherit the kingdom, it is a fact that is set in stone so the pressure is off of us to criticize, spew hateful rhetoric and vitriol- God will take care of those who do not respond to the Spirit’s work. Our job is to show them the Spirit, lead them to Jesus, meet them where they are with compassion and love, just as He did, and ask them what they know about Him. Maybe if we stop worrying so much about behavior and worry more about ensuring people feel safe enough to talk to us or come to us with questions, or to answer ours, we may spend more of our time-sharing the grace of Christ and letting it do the work. “Lead me to the Cross”- what a wonderful line.