Swallowing Grace

I close Sunday nights at work. My managers think I’m a great closer because I leave the place spotless, but I hate closing. Not because of the mopping and the scrubbing and the dozen little things that always need done, but because it puts me in charge of my fellow co-workers for the night. No one leaves without my stamp of approval saying they did all they were supposed to do before they left.

This might not be a problem, except I’m somewhat of a doormat. I hate making waves. I don’t want to be that jerk who says, “Hey, I don’t think you did this well enough. Clean it again.”

For the most part, I’ve worked with a really great staff who will go the extra mile for me, but things have changed up in recent weeks, and last night… Well, last night, I had the ultimate test on my doormat character.

When my dear co-worker who will go unnamed in this post asked me to check her stuff, I was confused to find that she had only been assigned one task when everyone else had been assigned two, especially since I was the one assigning the tasks. But when I checked my list and looked at the job I had intended to give her, I was surprised to find my own name written there.

Now, I’m not one to assume bad things of people, so my first thought was, “Did I accidentally fill in my own name?” But no, that wasn’t my handwriting. When you looked at the rest of the list that I clearly wrote, it was obvious to see someone had erased this girl’s name and written mine in her place.

It was late. I was tired and confused and still naive enough not to assume the culprit was standing right next to me.

Then she made a fatal mistake. She saw the parmesan cheese shaker in my hand and asked if she needed to refill it and put it away.

My gaze snapped from the list to her face. “You wrapped the parm and pepper shakers?”

“Yeah.”

I looked at the list, then back to her, waiting for her to realize that she had just implicated herself in a crime. But judging by the fact that she wrote my name on a list where my name was never supposed to appear, I’m going to assume she wasn’t quite clever enough to realize she had “accidentally” done half of “my” task. Which wouldn’t make sense unless she knew the job was meant to be hers in the first place.

So there I am, waiting for her to stop lying to my face, when she asks, “So, am I good?”

And because I actually somewhat enjoy folding pizza boxes, I simply said, “Yeah, you’re good,” and scribbled my name on her cashout.

Minutes later, I was standing in the expo line with a stack of thirty pizza boxes, which caused quite a stir among my remaining co-workers, who knew the closer wasn’t responsible for tasks such as these.

“Did you give yourself that out?” one of them asked.

“No, but someone did.”

It wasn’t difficult for them to figure out what had happened, and that’s when the suggestions began.

“You shouldn’t just give her pizza boxes next week; you should give her something hard, like tea brewers.”

“Just give her an extra out. That’s what I would do.”

And I have to say all of their suggestions sounded really good. I could passive-aggressively make her Sunday nights miserable for as long as she works them. It’s really tempting to want to make her Sunday nights miserable, at least for a week or two.

But then I was driving home and God started stirring things up inside of me. He started talking about being a light in this world and reminded me of the passage in John 8 where Jesus extends grace to the woman caught in the act of adultery.

And that is when I knew for certain that, while revenge is sweet, grace is a bitter pill to swallow. Even in accepting it, your pride will be stung, but extending it to those who are unworthy… The best analogy I can come up with in this moment is that it’s like chugging a bottle of buffalo sauce, and that only makes sense if you know how the very smell of it nauseates me.

But it fits. When my stomach starts to swim at the thought of being the giver of grace in this situation, it’s about the only thing that fits.

I’m having a hard time imagining looking this co-worker in the eye and saying, “I know what you did with the outs list last week, and I forgive you. What do you say we start fresh?”

On the other hand, I can’t imagine it going any other way. God’s voice is loud in the hearts of those who have turned themselves over to Him.

So, I don’t know how this is going to turn out. Maybe I’ll say nothing and continue on with life as normal. Maybe I’ll keep the pencil poised over pizza boxes (and tea brewers and oh have fun with the soda machine) longer than I should. Or maybe I’ll finally find courage enough to open my mouth and speak the words that need to be said.

Hate the Sin. (No, Really, Hate It.)

Warning: This is probably the most controversial post I’ve ever written, so if you don’t like having your toes trampled upon, you might want to stop reading right now. Or maybe you’ll agree with me. A lot of you won’t. I fully expect disgruntled readers, angry comments, hate mail, even (It’s beyondwaiting@yahoo.com, friends). I’m okay with that. Because I realize that, in this day and age, the “H” word is a little hard to swallow.

Yesterday afternoon, a friend linked to this post. I had a major problem with removing the word “hate” from my vocabulary, arguing that the moment we stop hating sin is the moment it swallows us up. The age old quote is “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin.” It is possible to do both at the same time, I said. That’s when a helpful commenter linked me to this post.

I think that post was supposed to debate my point; I believe it only enforced it. Remember what I said about removing the word hate from our vocabulary? It looks to me like the author believed one thing until his brother was the one struggling. Now he’s changed his mind about hating the sin because it puts tension on his relationship with his brother?

I fully agree that we should not hold homosexuality to a different degree of sin, but I don’t think that means we need to brush it under the table. It ranks right there with idol worship, adultery, stealing, and a number of other sins (sorry if you don’t like my saying that, but Paul said it, too—1 Corinthians 6:9-11). A sin no greater than any others, but a sin just the same.

I understand why the author wants to quit believing his brother’s lifestyle is Biblically unacceptable. I’ve wanted to give up on my own beliefs before because it would have been so much easier to pretend everything was all right. It would be much less painful to just accept people as they are and not have to question their life choices. I’m sure my own brother wished the sting of conviction in my soul didn’t speak so loudly, because I know I wished his would shut up when the time came for him to turn the tables on me.

I think we’ve confused love and tolerance, thinking they are one and the same. But compare these definitions:

Tolerance: the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Love: unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) :  the fatherly concern of God for humankind (2) :  brotherly concern for others.

If I’m truly concerned for the good of another, I’m not going to simply “tolerate” their harmful habits. Because I don’t think loving the sinner and hating the sin are mutually exclusive.

Which brings me to the second point in Article #2. When writing of the adulterous woman, the author states:

But Jesus knelt with her in the sand. Unafraid to get dirty. Unafraid to affirm her humanity. “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

He could have said “You’re a sinner, but I love you anyways.” But she knew she was a sinner. Those voices were loud and near and they held rocks above her head.

Um, Jesus kind of did tell her she was a sinner. It’s sort of implied in the phrase, “Go and sin no more.” Yes, He accepted her. Yes, He refused to throw rocks alongside the others, but He didn’t completely sweep her sin under the rug. He acknowledged it. He entreated her to leave it behind. To start new and afresh. Essentially, Jesus did say, “You’re a sinner, but I love you anyways.”

I think that’s where the Christians who are preaching grace are falling short. We’re looking the broken people of the world straight in the eye and saying, “Neither do I condemn you.” And that’s a beautiful thing. But we’re forgetting, always forgetting, to remind them to go and sin no more.

Maybe Jarrid Wilson was right, and people don’t know how to separate the sinner from the sin. Because, in accepting people, we’ve made it look like we’re accepting their sin. Or maybe we feel like we have to accept their sin in order to fully accept them.

I was once in a social setting where a friend asked another friend what her sister was doing these days.

“She’s doing really good,” the friend replied. “She’s living with her boyfriend in Columbus.”

“Oh, that’s cool.”

That’s cool? Does anyone else see a problem with that statement? Or was I the only one choking on my tongue? Those are the kinds of reports about my friends that I find disappointing, not because it makes me love them any less, but because I only wanted God’s best for them. I hate that they’ve walked away from that. Yes, hate.

Let’s bring it down a level. Imagine you have a kid, and of course you do what all good parents do and warn him away from the hot stove. But he’s a kid, and kids will do what kids are going to do. He touches the stove, he gets burned, what now? You’re probably going to pull him into your arms, stick his poor, little hand under the faucet, and whisper soothing platitudes like, “It’s okay, baby. You’re going to be all right. Mommy/Daddy loves you.”

All those things are good. All those things are true. But you know what else is probably going on in your mind? You probably hate that he disobeyed you; not because you’re hard-core authoritarian, but because he’s hurt. You probably hate that he got burned. You hate that he had to learn this lesson the hard way.

Does this distract from your love for him? Absolutely not.

Because love and hate are not mutually exclusive.

I love my parents, therefore I hate disappointing them.
I love my brother, therefore I hate watching him make poor choices.
I love my students, therefore I hate that many of them have so much hurt in their lives.

There is never a good time to speak hateful words to someone, but it’s okay—no, really, it’s for the best—to gently correct your brother when he has failed (and to allow your brother to correct you). It’s time to take our fallen brethren by the hand and truthfully say, “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

Hate the sin. (No, really, hate it.) But speak the truth in love.

love

A Few Other Voices

I thought you might get tired of hearing from me, so I decided to give you all a break today, by instead linking you to three other bloggers who really touched my heart this last week.

1) I’ve been following Sarah Moon for quite some time now and love how open she is with her doubts and questions. I especially love that we don’t always have to agree; she’s open to differing opinions. But she had my heart with this post. Check out how honestly she shares that sometimes you don’t find God in church; sometimes you find Him somewhere else.

2) Ironically, on the tale end of that, I found my way over to Julianna Morlet’s blog where she writes about “unchurching” herself for a season. (Really, I’m not against church or anything. You’ll find me there every Sunday morning.)

3) Don’t worry, it’s not about church; you can breathe easy now. Sarah Nutter is relatively new to the blogging world and extremely new to my world, but I love her already. Check out her post about hating sin and loving grace.