"The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14
This past Sunday a funny thing happened in worship. I witnessed grace in all of it's beauty pour over the rag tag followers of Christ who hang out at The Harbor Community Church. It was a beautiful moment, it was, I hope a transformational moment in our lives together.
It began with a dear friend openly, honestly, humbly, and with great confidence confess his decades long addiction to pornography - an addiction which has, in the last few years been overcome and overwhelmed by the healing nature of God's grace. My friend stood before his fellow travelers and just shared the truth of his pain. He talked about the pain, the cost, but most importantly he spoke of healing, of victory. And Grace just poured out among us.
It continued when the same friend introduced his friends - a mother and a son. The son shared that he has struggled with a same sex attraction all of his life - thus you can call him a homosexual. His story was not one of abuse but of an attraction to men that he never wanted, but could not deny. His story was striking as he shared that he came to believe that God couldn't love him, that religious people hated him so why try and struggle with the attraction. He told the story of a downward spiral into behaviors that tore at his soul. Yet, he believed that was his lot in life. By the way, he told these stories with his mother sitting by his side; her pride, pain, love and grace were clearly evident for her son.
And then as he spoke of asking God to take away this pain, this attraction, and the fact that God had not taken it away, but that God has made a way through the temptations so that he is now living a celibate lifestyle now and is committed to living as a celibate man who struggles with homosexuality, GRACE just poured out! His honesty, humility, openness, courage and grace were disarming, convicting and a beautiful reminder of mercy, love and truth.
From my vantage point on that Sunday I could see the faces of those who listened. When he asked how many had family and friends in their lives who were gay or lesbian I saw the large number of hands go up. When he talked I saw people lean forward and lean into what he said. I know this is a controversial issue and I know that some are going to jump to conclusions about myself and The Harbor Community Church (go ahead!). But what I witnessed that morning was GRACE. The kind of grace that heals, that encourages, that instructions, corrects, binds up, and heals.
John tells us that Jesus was full of grace and truth. I am thankful for that order. If Jesus had been full of truth and grace there would be no way for people like me and my friends who shared this past Sunday to ever experience grace. But because Jesus was full of grace and full of truth, he is approachable. Jesus does not ignore or condone our sinfulness - he paid the price for it! But nor does Jesus stand off and aloof demanding that we do what we cannot do - change, become good, stop looking at pornography, stop acting on our same sex attractions, stop drinking excessively, stop being a glutton - should I go on? Jesus stands before us clothed in grace. He is accessible to us in our pain and sin. He loves us as we are and too much to leave us that way.
I learned something at church this past week - imagine that! We all have our opinions, our prejudices, our interpretations, our fears - we all have this tendency to leave certain people outside of our love and God's grace. As we listened to each other this Sunday we learned, we grew, we became brothers and sisters, we experienced that overwhelming bonding of Grace.
I think what we need is more light and less heat. There have been enough sermons about homosexuality and those with an agenda. There have been enough commentators screaming that marriage is about to be destroyed. There have been enough parades and angry slogans shouted at those hateful Christians. We need to sit down and listen to one another. We need to hear the grace in the stories of our pain. We need to see the grace in the other persons journey.
I am not saying it is time to abandon Truth. Grace would not be grace without truth and truth would be tyranny without grace. When you face difficulties and are hard pressed to figure something out in the realm of Truth, trying trusting grace, trying acting in grace, trying giving grace it just might change us all.
I want to thank my friends who shared with us this past Sunday. I am a better person for having heard your stories and I want to learn more from the grace you have come to know in your journeys.