I don't know if I mentioned it much, but I work for this church. This church that believes in grace (aka "unmerited favor"). What church people mean when they say that is God did it all. It's not cause we're good or cool (if you've ever met a Christian you can approve that statement). It's cause God is so gracious He chooses to be kind to us. Even though we're, well, us.
There is one catch though. Once you've received grace, you're supposed to extend it. We have a hard time with this one. Especially at church. Most churches are places where people feel judged, guilted or shamed for who they are. I'm lucky to be at a place that doesn't value that. We like to consider ourselves a church of grace, however, putting our money where our mouth is is hard. There comes a point when you are extending grace to someone that you come to a place where you are forced to allow your reputation to be "tarnished" for the sake of extending grace to a person the world might feel is unqualified. It's really easy to extend grace to someone when it makes you look good. I mean even talking about it makes you look good. Who wouldn't want to call themselves gracious? It sounds so altruistic. But actually doing it? That's messy. That's hard.
I haven't always been a person who errs on the side of grace. In fact, most of the time, I fear I've been the opposite, but that's slowly changing in me. The older I'm getting, the more I'm realizing just how disqualified I am from earning God's grace. As I realize it, it compels me to show it to others. Grace though it seems passive, is actually a very active choice. You have to choose to care more about extending grace to a person that what a judgmental loudmouth (see me a couple years ago, and still on a bad day) would say. You have to care more about grace than your reputation.
Recently, I was handling a sticky situation at the church. A person of a not so perfect reputation coming around and wanting to serve. We've seen this many times. I mean if we disqualified people from serving based on their sin, we'd have a pretty empty church, and no staff members. What do you do when people are pointing out someone and asking, should this person be "allowed" to serve?
As we were chewing on the issue, we examined the persons heart and intentions, their openness to truth being spoken into their life, their ability to really understand truth, and where they are at in their relationship with the Lord.
Then I started to think. God really tarnished his reputation by extending grace to us. I mean, God is perfect. Holy. Awesome. Wonderful. And yet, a large part of the world sees Him as a joke because of Christians. God chose to care more about loving us, about extending us grace, than protecting His reputation. The least I can do is forfeit mine in the same way. Will I get burned? Maybe. Probably, but God's been burned a few times too. Does it mean I stop speaking truth? Absolutely not, but I want to do so considering where a person is at in this journey with God. If we get in the trenches with people, odds are things are going to get a little dirty, and I ain't scared of getting a little dirt under my nails. Will there be those who don't understand? Surely, but it's not my job to appease the masses. It's not my job to silence the voices of judgment. All I need to do is be willing to be misunderstood for the sake of grace.