Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Moral Authority - but not what you think...

This is going to wander all over, but you have to start somewhere to get it out. The catalyst is some thinkings a friend has casually mentioned over the past few weeks and the wonderful randomness on how they have changed the course of my thoughts.

Maybe it started innocently with a comment about christian song-writers ability to shape personal theology. Certainly it is born out of a season with deep relational pain, unmet expectations, self-doubt, self-pity (because the former certainly invites the latter) and what felt like several slaps in the face. This morning it culminates in the term "moral authority", calling bullshit and (I hope) grace.

Growing up in the thick of Christianese I learned that once you screwed up you lost the right to talk about Jesus. This sounds flippant and it isn't meant to be so. It was life changing for my family over and over again. When I was very young both my parents worked for Jimmy Swaggart. From there my father went to work for PTL. Followed by several other not-so-transparent Christian organizations. In every case his employment ended far prior to the famous scandals, but I learned what gigantic ass-hats believers can be. I don't remember any deep shock when our family heard on the news that these icons of American Christian Culture had crashed and burned.  We knew what things looked like behind the scenes. (And honestly I cringe with when I see Steve Furtick's name hit the news; because from experience where there is smoke there is fire.)

And when these scandals hit you disassociated yourself as quickly as possible. And yes, there is legitimate reason for not wanting to be painted with the same brush. It felt like Hypocrisy was the catch-word of Christian counter culture throughout the 90's (and perhaps even now? I'm kind of out of touch.)

During this same time frame Sandi Patty was found to have had an affair and divorced. Later Amy Grant. If preachers and pastors who screwed the pooch were expected to step down and shut up, what about popular artists and Christian Pop Culture Icons?

Fast forward 15-20 long years. I was revisiting all my favorite Christian song writers, and while sitting in the bath one evening decided to share some of my favorite songs with my husband. Here I am sitting cross legged,  head resting on my arms folded on the side of the tub, transported in deep appreciation as we listened to "Lover" by Derek Webb. (My husband doesn't listen to much Christian music.) I start telling him how amazing this album is, calling out the church for its love of money, and superficial desires.... blah blah blah. I pull up Derek Webb on my smart phone and guess who had an affair and got divorced last year? I know I am too old to be traumatized by the weakness of artists I have never met - but I felt cheated. How could I love and be changed by something written by someone who so blatantly failed their professed beliefs? It stewed underneath for two days. I didn't realize that was what I was feeling/thinking - just felt that disappointment that kind of makes everything golden seem kinda dusty and cheap.

I didn't realize I was being a self-righteous, indignant, judgmental poopy-head! I didn't realize I was forcing Truth to wear the clothing of my disdain. Who cares what the truth-sharer did? And I got to thinking about how God has shared His truth through the scripture. Go ahead and tell me about all the perfect people that God used. All the truth speakers that never screwed up. All the prophets, apostles, writers of the Bible that never directly disobeyed, took unplanned voyages in big fish, felt guilty hearing a chicken or hearing a story about pet sheep. I realized how often I hold the sins others have committed against God against them (as though I have any right to deny forgiveness that He has bestowed.) Time for me to ask for forgiveness myself.

And then, BAM! I hold the same inconsistencies against myself. I refuse to forgive myself for the same bullshit reasons I hold on to judgments against other people. Doing so allows me to wallow in the self-pity mentioned above and to focus on the wrongs others have done against me instead of letting them go. AND it provides an "out" for me when I want to hide from the truths the Spirit is laying on my heart. And this is where I call bullshit on the devil's lies. He seeks to kill, steal and destroy. But Jesus says, "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture." The Gate. Jesus is the Gate. Not the wall. The thief comes to destroy but Jesus is the gate - and we come in and go out and find good pasture. He doesn't keep us locked inside living on carefully doled out portions based on the faithfulness of our service. And when we enter a season of dry earth, and we doubt the goodness of our father, and we make poor choices attempting to meet our own needs, and we choose to feed from the leftovers instead of the pasture, - He doesn't lock us up. Refusing forgiveness or restoration. The thief does that. The thief comes in to kill (relationships) steal (joy) and destroy (peace of mind) - add your own parenthetical results of his lies. The Savior opens the gate onto pasture and we have the chance every morning to go out and find that sweet fresh grass again, even if we couldn't find it yesterday. 

Moral authority. Who has that? (Sunday school answer - "JESUS".) Who else? Um, no one. Ok. When have you ever had moral authority? Tell me the last time you walked blamelessly. (Not the last time you ACTED like you walked blamelessly.) OK. Now. Guess what? You are completely and 100% forgiven for not eating good grass yesterday. You are forgiven for straying into other pastures. You are forgiven for trying to hide in the sheep pen instead of trusting the Shepherd to protect you. Your relationship with Jesus has not changed. Ya, I don't get it either.

This is the startling, unexplainable, baffling, shocking, foolishness of the Gospel. This is what I just can't quite accept about Grace. But what I can wrap my mind around is that Truth is Truth no matter how you dress her up. And no one is forbidden to speak Truth - whether they deserve to or not. She is still Truth even when you don't believe.