DEAR CHRISTIANS: WHERE IS THE GRACE?
My name is Jon, and I’m a fellow Christian. These modest words that follow are, collectively, an open letter to those who believe in Jesus, who call themselves Christians. I am writing this letter as a Christian who has made, and continues to make, a lot of mistakes. I have hurt both God and my fellow humans. I don’t write this letter from a position of superiority, but rather from a humble place of knowing firsthand my need for grace.
We Christians share a common creed. Preeminently, we believe in Jesus, God become man, who left everything to enter our broken planet as a helpless baby. Why? So that he could show us, firsthand, what the love and grace of God is all about. Everything he did, he did in grace, with grace, because of grace. He healed the sick. Welcomed the outcasts. Touched lepers. Hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors. Not only that, but on account of his grace, he was beaten and crucified, taking the punishment our sinful selves deserved and trading it for the substitutionary atonement of a Savior, for eternal life in him.
Jesus was, and is, the incarnation of grace. John 1:17 puts it this way: “For the law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Just as Jesus lived and died with grace, we are called to live and love with the same grace we have been given. That love extends to everyone, not just to those who believe the same as us, look the same as us, vote the same way as us. 1 John 4:20 offers these words of warning: “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
How is it, then, that so much of what Christians in the United States stand for today is so devoid of grace? Lacking in love?
If grace is to be our anthem and everything we live for as Christians, where is it?
Where is the grace when Mexicans and other immigrants are called murderers and rapists by our President? When they are separated from their families and kept in brutally inhumane conditions, all because they want to move to a different country? When they are the target of racial epithets and told to “speak English” even though the United States doesn’t have an official language? Aren’t we all but immigrants? As Jeremiah 22:3 says, “Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner.” Not only that, but Jesus paints Samaritans, foreigners whom Jews looked down upon, to be heroes in one of his most famous parables. Remember the Good Samaritan? Yeah, that parable.
Where is the grace when some Christians are adamant that children deserve the right to be born, yet don’t care about what happens to those children afterward? Where is the grace in defunding their education, in sending them to war, in not wanting to make sure they’re healthy and fed via affordable healthcare and social safety nets? Pro-life should refer to the duration of someone’s life, not just when they’re in utero. Often, all it takes for someone to cease their pro-life stance is for you to reach for their pocketbook. Furthermore, abortion rates actually decreased under Obama, because (surprise, surprise) access to affordable contraception goes a long way towards avoiding unwanted pregnancies.
Where is the grace when some Christians find a way to weasel out of supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, pointing to flaws in leadership or some other unjustified excuse, and by the same token are able to explain away the President’s many flaws or support him in spite of them? Shouldn’t every Christian who has actually read and taken to heart the words of Jesus be marching hand in hand with every Black person in this country? BLM doesn’t mean that your white life doesn’t matter. Human rights are not pie. Just because someone else gains some doesn’t mean you lose yours. Furthermore, where is the grace when Trump supports discriminatory housing practices? Won’t denounce blatant racism and police brutality, even on a stage so grand as during a presidential debate?
Where is the grace when Christians support any sort of white supremacy movement? Any sort of white nationalism? Can you imagine the Jesus who knelt to wash his disciples’ feet, and who, by the way, certainly wasn’t white, being at the head of a group of Proud Boys, semiautomatic weapon in hand? “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Paul says in Galatians 3:28.
Where is the grace in refusing to wear a mask to help slow the spread of COVID? Instead of doing this one simple, gracious act to help protect others, some Christians make up excuses and wild conspiracy theories about governmental control. Didn’t Jesus do anything he could to help and serve others? You complain about wearing a mask, while he wore a crown of thorns. Worse yet, where is the grace, the compassion, the concern in a President who consistently downplayed the threat of COVID even though he knew the dangers? Who refused to wear masks and mocked those who did? Who didn’t listen to experts and instead initiated a halfhearted, haphazard response to the most lethal global pandemic in a century, a response which cost over 200,000 American lives? Who, when he contracted COVID himself, knowingly followed through with an engagement that evening without masking up, infecting many others in the process, and couldn’t even pay lip service to the plight of those who have contracted the coronavirus and don’t have access to the world’s best health care?
Where is the grace in a system of government that consistently gives huge tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the lower and middle classes? A government that can’t provide necessities like healthcare and education to its lower-income citizens, the ones who need it the most? When Jesus fed the 5,000, he didn’t hang on to his loaves and fishes and launch into a diatribe about how hard he had worked for them, and how those in attendance should go get their own. Instead, he freely gave. And, it turns out, there was an abundance, enough left for everyone and then some. No, I am not condoning taking advantage of the system, and I understand that the money must come from somewhere. But, interestingly, Jesus was also a proponent of paying taxes (“Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” he said). You may call it socialism. Jesus called it grace.
Where is the grace in a staged photo-op with a Bible at a church near the White House which required tear gassing innocent, peaceful citizens? This is exactly the kind of sham religion that Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms for, such as in Matthew 23. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness…Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Where is the grace in a President who pledges to enact a tax cut that will defund Social Security, striking a huge blow to the well-being of retirees, people with disabilities, and widows and widowers? Where is the grace in Christians supporting this? “Religion,” James 1:27 says, “that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” Isaiah 1:17 says it even more succinctly: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
Where is the grace in a President who lashes out in egregiously ugly ways at anyone and everyone who either disagrees with him in the slightest, or who has wronged him in any real or perceived way? He has obviously never read the following words of Peter: “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9). Jesus told us to turn the other cheek, but Trump can’t even turn the other tweet. Where is the grace in Christians who implicitly condone this petulant bully’s behavior, turning a deaf ear to his words and somehow thinking that he cares at all about what Jesus has to say, after admitting he has never asked for forgiveness in his life (one of the only prerequisites for salvation, I might add).
Where is the grace in a President who is so enamored with being the richest and the best that he tells more lies than any other president in history (according to the unbiased, nonpartisan reports of Politifact) to ensure that he is portrayed in nothing but a flattering light? He must have missed those verses about the meek inheriting the Earth, or about the first being last and the last being first. He also never read Proverbs 21:6: “The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.” Where is the grace in his faithful followers, who blindly believe what the President says rather than trusting experts, science, or facts? “Fake news” is undoubtedly the most genius catchphrase that Trump has ever employed; with it, he and his followers can conveniently dismiss any proven fact that challenges their worldview as part of a vast conspiracy of the left-wing media.
Where is the grace for our planet? Our future? Our kids and their kids? If this Earth is a gift from God, created by his hand, wouldn’t we want to take care of it? To take every opportunity to support green energy? Renewable resources? Recycling? To treat animals kindly? Instead, we have a President who, in 2009, in the New York Times, supported legislation combating climate change, saying that “if we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.” Then, when it became politically necessary in order to court Republican voters, he flipped the script. He called climate change “an expensive hoax,” gutted the EPA and put coal lobbyists in charge of it, pulled us out of the Paris Agreement, dismantled the Clean Power Plan, rolled back rules limiting methane pollution, and loosened emissions standards for cars and trucks. We only have one planet. One future. Yet, the callous disregard for the environment by our President, and many who support him, in the name of economic strength shows a complete lack of grace for our world and for those who will inhabit it just 20, 30, 50 years from now. What happens to those fossil fuel industry jobs when fossil fuels run out? When the Earth is rendered completely uninhabitable? Furthermore, Trump’s policies have cost the renewable energy sector over 622,000 jobs since he took office. How’s that for building a robust job market?
What happened to love? Love for everyone in this human race, whether gay or straight, Black or white, rich or poor, male or female or any other identification? If you have everything except for love, you still have nothing, according to 1 Corinthians 13.
You can’t love God and hate Muslims. You can’t love God and turn a blind eye to systemic racism. You can’t love God and discriminate against LGBTQ people. You can’t love God and abuse women.
Wake up, Christians. If there is no grace in what you believe and practice, then you are not of God.
I don’t actually expect my writing to change anyone’s mind. Republicans have been branding themselves as “God’s party” for years, even though the notion that God can be reduced to either political party is asinine. Both parties, and their respective politicians, are far from perfect; however, the Democratic Party consistently bases its platforms on inclusion and on taking care of everyone, not just the rich, the white, the male. Which, as it turns out, is exactly the kind of social agenda Jesus espoused. Still, I am not writing this letter in order to get you to swap your partisan affiliation. I am writing it because it breaks my heart to see so many of my friends turn against the God of grace and love that the Bible portrays because they see such a different God embodied in the lives of those who claim to follow him.
Do you get it, Christians? Your graceless words and actions are the biggest cause of unbelief in this broken world. You may think you’re standing up for what is good and right, but in reality, you’re locking the doors to heaven and throwing away the key.
Yes, God cares about what we do. But our actions, our sins, our shortcomings, and our transformation are all between us and Christ. “We can’t legislate man to perfection again,” sings Thrice. The way to lead others to Jesus is never judgment and hate. Rather, it’s always grace and love.
Right before God, through Isaiah in Chapter 1, told Israel to learn to do good, seek justice, and correct oppression, he went off on them for the religious show they put on. For their outward display of piety. For their hypocrisy. The one thing God hates more than evil is evil dressed up as good.
The only antidote to evil is grace. Amazing, surprising, unexpected, undeserved, reckless grace.
Let me be clear: if we don’t live in grace, we don’t live in Christ.
“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace,” says Paul in Galatians 5:4.
God is love. Love is not just another one of his many attributes; it fundamentally comprises who he is. His love for us is so strong, so pure, so great, that he would rather give up his life than give up his love.
There’s more. He doesn’t just love us, but he calls us to love in the same way as he did. “Just as I have loved you, so you are to love one another,” he says in John 13:34. He doesn’t give us the option to pick and choose who we love. Who we show grace to. Who we accept, welcome, embrace.
“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love,” 1 John 4:8 succinctly states.
If you do not love, you do not know God. Mic drop.
These are not my words. They are God’s.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to live in a world where people would know we are Christians by our love, rather than by our judgmental attitudes, hatred towards those not like us, and utter hypocrisy? Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. (John 13:35)” He meant it. This is exactly what he desires.
Love is not a noun. It is a verb. God did not simply sit on his throne and wax eloquent about how much he loves us. Not even close. He counted everything as loss, including his own life, to put his love into action. He calls us to do the same. If we say we love everyone, yet live, act, or vote in a way that doesn’t match our words, we don’t love. Period. “Let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth,” 1 John 3:18 affirms.
So, Christians, I invite you to take a long, hard look at what you believe. Ask yourself: where is the grace? I mean it when I say that I will continue to do the same. Is grace the driving force behind our attitudes, our actions, our beliefs, our attributes? If not, let us ask God for grace. He will give it freely. His grace is enough. For you. For me. For a broken world desperately in need of the love of the Father and the love of fellow humans.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see