Yesterday I caught Pastor Darrin Patrick’s tweet linking the well-known bigotry of Westboro Baptist Church (www.godhatesfags.com) in this inflammatory statement regarding yesterday’s shooting in Tucson, AZ as an encouragement for pastor’s to preach grace. Pastor Patrick’s tweet got me thinking about the offense—even inflammatory—offense of the grace of God to a sinful world.
God’s grace in the person and work of Jesus Christ is shaped to save all kinds of sinners—the self-righteous like those at Westboro and the murderous like yesterday’s assassin Jared Lee Loughner.
Sure, not all of us fit on that continuum. Many would never speak or act out the kinds of things that they have, but each demonstrate the worst of both worlds—pride and anger—which resides in all of our hearts. You may never act on it so brazenly, but each of us is infected with the same sin. Every human is a sinner.
The good news of Christianity is that God in Christ died to save the worst of sinners. The Apostle Paul, the most influential Christian missionary who ever lived, murdered Christians, yet God saved him by his grace. He was a kind of Westboro and Loughner rolled into one—a self-righteous, murderous bigot—and yet God loved him, saved him, and called him to testify to his grace. In his own words, Paul put it this way:
“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15, ESV)
This means that God’s grace can save any sinner.
We see the ugliness of sin in its most shocking ways at the scene of the crime of Ina and Oracle in Tucson, AZ and in the writings, “sermons”, and picket lines inspired by Westboro’s leader Fred Phelps. On a day like yesterday, it’s harder to see the greater size of God’s grace, but God’s grace is always bigger than the worst of human sin.
This is, of course, offensive. It’s offensive that God would save someone like Paul who killed Christians—composed of moms and dads and sisters and brothers. But He did. And it’s offensive to say that God’s grace is big enough to save people like Loughner and the constituents of WBC, but it is.
It’s a beautiful scandal. Jesus saves sinners. Like you. And me.
Therefore if you’re a pastor preach this kind of inflammatory grace. If you’re a Christian revisit this kind of grace that God gave to you. And if you’re neither, receive it. God’s grace is bigger than your sin–so own it, repent of it, and receive God’s grace in Christ who died in the place of wicked sinners who would trust him.