Grace and Peace
by Bishop Veron Ashe
Don't present a False Concept
Most people are invited into a relationship with God by being told they are wrong, sinful, and in need of salvation. While this is certainly true, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, I certainly wouldn't show up to a party where the bases of being invited was that I am a screw up. To have the first words of the Gospel of Christ be ones of condemnation present a false concept of the core of the gospel and of God's love.
I certainly don't like being told that I am a bad person and I assume you don't either. It's no wonder people become defensive, cross their arms, and shut down before we get to our point in telling them they are sinners, being that God has forgiven them. Yet the topic sentence of the gospel is a guilty verdict and by the time we get to the good news of God's undying love we have already put the world on its heals in a defensive position. God is the only Judge of sins I am not. I know what I have done and to condemn others of being sinners is not my place. I would rather have them know Jesus by his love.
Jesus came not to Condemn
Remembering that Jesus came not to condemn the world but for its salvation is very important when we encounter the good news What if the first thing that we thought of when we talked about the cross was the hope that it represents and the love of God not just the sin that held Christ there. Sin is only a part of the cross it is not the point. If we invited people into a relationship with a Loving, holy, and untamable God, I think people would be far more apt to listen to the good news and engage it. Then once the basis of their relationship with Jesus is love not sin they would realize the broken state of existence they are in. I believe God would show them that they need Christ and yet know that they are loved even as a broken person. How different would our lives as Christians be if at the core of our relationship with God was not the need of a savior but God's love? That are the center of it all we knew that Jesus had hope in us and that God loved us. Our actions would not be driven by sin management, hiding our true selves, or fear; they would be actions of a free redeemed people. If the core of our relationship with God is mere redemption from sin we fall into so many traps.
The Power of Forgiveness
For instance what is there left to do once we realize that we are forgiven? Well, we could sit around and try to not sin anymore, but if we could have done that, then Christ died in vain. St. Paul writes pretty clearly that how Christ has redeemed us we are free from the law and from sin. Yet if at the center of our gospel is sin, there will be no way to get away from it. We would exist lives of guilt because we kept failing to be sinless. Yet most dangerous is that sin is not Godly and to have a gospel based on sin would be to create one that has something to do with God, but God would not be the foundation of it. To have a Gospel based on sin, is a gospel that is self focused and is no gospel at all. If love is the center of our theology, then sin becomes a part of our live but we will be able to stop worrying about our own salvation and we will be able to act in freedom the freedom of faith.
A Gospel of Love
Our faith would not be measured in how little we sin, rather it will be seen in how we act in love. We would not be burdened with the guilt of a sinful life but we would be free to forgive and to love for we know that at the core of God is love. A gospel based on love is one that is based upon God. I would like to point something out that seems to go unnoticed in most Christian circles. Jesus walked around and taught before he was crucified. And when he arose from the dead he walked around and taught a little bit more. The cross was part of his ministry, It was not the whole deal. It is very important, but during those times of walking with us he also taught us about love. On the cross God shows us how love wins. I am not saying that sin is not an issue, sin is all around us and is very dangerous. As we love Christ more and more, we ought become more aware of our fallen state, yet we also become aware of grace more and more. Christ came for the salvation of the world from sin, but he came because of love. We need to put love first and then realize the effects of a life based on love.
Bishop Veron Ashe