Cheap versus Costly Grace

It would be wrong to assume that all if not most churches overreact to homosexuality as if it were a landmine, ready to explode. In truth, the churches most influential in our land today seem to have detonated the issue altogether. How? By avoiding it.

Rick Warren, arguably one if not the most powerful Christian leaders in the USA, was recently described in a Time magazine cover story as avoiding ‘sin issues’ like homosexuality for less controversial ones like poverty and AIDS in Africa.

Perhaps the strength of ‘seeker-sensitive’ churches is also its weakness. Gather people on the basis of what is inoffensive, and lay aside the topics that rouse and challenge the Christian consumer. Certainly homosexuality is one, especially if preaching a transformational view for individuals and a cautionary one for those in a culture intent on normalizing homosexuality.

But in the age of ‘gay marriage’, how much longer can churches cease to give a clear and redemptive answer to the question of homosexuality?

A muddled response permeates ‘emergent’ churches—a loose coalition of youthful post-modern believers. In their amazing book, Why We’re Not Emergent (By Two Guys Who Should Be: Moody, 2008)), Kluck and De Young expose the persistently ambiguous response of emergent thinkers to homosexuality.

For example, Brian McClaren all but mimics liberal Protestants of the seventies who initiated the still raging battles for same-sex blessings and gay ordination when he says about gay unions: “We are not sure if or where lines are to be drawn…” Another thinker in this arena, Tony Jones, mused: “The very nature of theology is conversation and dialogue, not safeguards and boundaries for historic orthodoxy…”

In the emergent world, an open-ended, ‘who knows?’ approach to those with same-sex attraction symbolize a new generation so committed to tolerance in sexual matters that they have nearly lost the capacity to know and apply biblical truth to them.

Is this not the wrong kind of tolerance for which Jesus judged the Church of Thyatira? Her sin was not out and out blessing of sexual immorality, but rather a tolerance of those in her midst who did, namely Jezebel, ‘who by her teaching misleads my servants into sexual immorality…” (Rev. 2:20). She incurred death upon herself and her children.

Perhaps ‘emergents’ are still reacting to the fundamentalism of their youth in which sex, especially homosexuality, seemed a scapegoat for smug hardliners. To be sure, we have much to repent of. But in our awakening, we read the paper, counsel our friends, look within and discover that the image of God is in shambles. We need help; our gender and sexual selves need fortifying and defense from good Christian theologians.

The gates protecting humanity have been burned in the fire of addiction and perversion. In that mess, none of us are innocents, or solely victims of heavy-handed religion. We are damaged and we do damage simply by being members of an idolatrous culture.

In that way, seeker sensitive, emergent churches are right in drawing people with kindness; they are wrong if they will not answer a culture so messed up it is unsure whether gays should marry.

Grace has meaning only to the degree that we know the truth—the truth that defines God’s intent and boundaries for our broken sexual humanity. We Christian consumers need to hear again the words of Bonhoeffer when he says:

“Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and Incarnate…

We poured out rivers of grace without end, but the call to rigorously follow Christ was seldom heard. What happened to the church whose teaching watched so carefully over the boundary between the church and the world, over costly grace? What happened to Luther’s warnings against a proclamation of the Gospel which made people secure in their godless lives? Cheap grace was very unmerciful to our Protestant church…

Costly grace is the grace that must be sought again and again. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs us our life, and it is grace because it gives us the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and it is grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of His Son.” A Testament of Freedom

Honor Marriage for the Good of All. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“O God, forgive us for cheapening grace. Make it costly for us once more. May we Your church awaken to the damage done and dare to offend those who refuse the grace that calls them to arise out of the chaos.”


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