Have you ever struggled with the tension between truth and grace? You disapprove of someone’s behavior, and you wonder what you should do about it? If you do nothing, are you condoning sin? If you address it head on are you being judgmental?
These are typically questions we ask about others, not ourselves. When we sin, we want grace. When others sin, we want to make sure they know the grievance of their offense (especially if it was against us). Even if we were okay with someone speaking truth into our lives, we would much prefer a gracious rather than caustic approach.
Here’s another perspective. Don’t condone sin (in yourself or others), but offer Christ to redeem it. In his book, Messy Spirituality, author Mike Yaconelli once wrote, “Christians do not condone unbiblical living; we redeem it” (54).
He tells the story about a small group of American soldiers during World War II who sought out a burial site for one of their fallen friends. They were pulling out the next day and were hoping to bury him in a fenced churchyard cemetery nearby.
As the sun was setting, they approached the house next to the church and knocked on the door. The priest answered. They asked him if they could bury their friend in the cemetery. “I’m sorry,” he replied, “but that’s only for members of our church.”
The priest went on to tell the soldiers they could, if they chose, bury their comrade near the cemetery but on the other side of the fence. They were saddened but had few options, so that’s what they did.
The next day, they wanted to visit their fellow soldier’s gravesite one last time before moving on. When they came to the churchyard, they were shocked: they couldn’t find his grave. It simply wasn’t there.
One of them went to the parsonage door and knocked. “What happened to the grave we dug?” one soldier asked when the priest answered. “It’s not there. We did it last night, and it’s not there.”
“It’s still there.” The soldier was baffled. “You see, last night, I couldn’t sleep,” the priest confessed. “All I could think about was what I’d told you, that you couldn’t bury your friend inside our fence. I regretted that. So, last night, I got up—and I moved the fence” (retold in Unoffendable, 81-82).
I want to be someone who moves fences. I want to be a part of a church that moves fences. Not truth. Not God’s Word. Not the core of the Christian faith. But let’s move fences. We need to be people who say to others what we hope will be said to us: “Yes, I see the mess you’ve made of things, just as I have. But God wants us, mess and all. No matter what.”
Our goal is not to change people but to introduce them to the God who can. God is already reaching toward them with His love. Are you?
“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).