A Grace-filled Church in a Grace-Less Age

Over the last several days we have seen plenty of examples of the challenge of living in a secular society that increasingly is fascinated with its own demise…or at least the demise of others. A media feeding frenzy often is begun by the chumming of waters around a celebrity figure. The hounds of tabloid press, 24-hour news channels, and a voracious news cycle that constantly feeds but is never full seems to all add to a dangerous cultural spiral downward where we forsake being a nation of a compelling people and just become added voices alongside the rabble of the world.

No longer are athletes able to enjoy the championships they earn, but they are immediately challenged and questioned as to whether their greatness will be repeated and are given endless comparisons to players from another era.

Our whole world, it seems, is simply one long litany of unmerited critics who rejoice in the failures of others and seek out ways to demean and dethrone those who make us feel inferior.

In the midst of all of this we have neglected the realization that the Church remains the one place where we can extend the grace of Jesus to all who seek it, and desperately need it. Our churches become those places where we can find refuge from the sickened world of self-pursuit as we lay down our motives and egos to worship God and serve each other. We can embrace the ethos of grace filled living where our titles and accomplishments or our failures and defeats have no bearing on our salvation or our continued growth in holiness.

As our society careens towards mindless self-destruction our churches have an opportune moment to provide avenues of grace to those in need. We can champion the truths of Isaiah 40:31 while recognizing that John 1:16 applies to us all. Perhaps our churches can be those safe harbors of care and grace in the midst of a stormy culture that seeks to beat us relentlessly against the rocks of hypocritical analysis. 

The pattern for the Church given to us by Jesus is that we become his ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20) extending the mercies of God’s Kingdom to the beleaguered souls where we live, work, and play. Our churches become sanctuaries of grace that provide a place for all people to heal and be restored without need for performance and often in light of our failures (Acts 10:34.) Because we are all failures who have an opportunity to be redeemed through Jesus’ sacrifice (Ephesians 2:1-10.) We become the people of the second chance, and third, and fourth, and fifth…and seventy times seven chance if necessary (Matthew 18:22.)

Since the earliest days in the pagan culture of Roman excess, the Church has existed to extend sweet mercies in this world to carry us through to the next. Our operating plan is not in technology or successful strategic execution, but it is in the Holy Spirit ordained extension of God’s grace to those who need it the most. May we find our new voice in being the grace-filled people of the seventy-times-seven chance in the grace-less age.

In a culture choked by performance and self-image may the Church be the place of authentic grace, forgiveness, and welcoming embrace for all those who have fallen short, who have left something in their past, who have skeletons in their closets, and need a place of rest.