Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Grace and the Church

I was going to write a Greek blog in ποιημα, but I saw an interview on TV a couple days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it, and I need your input to help me understand.

It was an interview on the Mike Huckabee Report. He interviewed Gayle Haggard, the wife of pastor Ted Haggard and author of Why I Stayed: The Choices I Made in My Darkest Hour. Her husband was the founder of the 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado Springs and was president of the National Association of Evangelicals. If you don’t already know, he admitted to an incident with a male prostitute.

Huckabee was talking to her mostly about forgiveness. He asked what was the most painful thing that happened. Her answer was fascinating. Certainly learning of the event was painful. Her children’s loss of dignity was hurtful. She said that she had received many kind and encouraging emails from homosexual men and Christians, and many cruel and hateful emails from homosexual men and Christians. Her conclusion: people are people.

But the event that hurt the most was their forced separation from the church and the people that they had loved for 22 years.

I don’t want to get into a debate of the incident or any of the particulars. But I do have one question for you. Isn’t the church, of all places, supposed to be the single greatest place of grace and healing and forgiveness? Yes, there are consequences to sin. Yes, there is loss of trust. Yes, betrayal is hard.

But where were they to turn? Where were they to go? Where were they to look for help in personal and corporate reconciliation?

Again, let me emphasize that I don’t know the details of what or how the church handled the situation, but I find myself scratching my head wondering why they were not allowed contact with the very body of Christ that should have been the greatest source of joy and comfort and grace and confrontation and love and discipline. Should not those of us who have truly received God’s grace in Christ Jesus be the first and the best at extending grace to others? Did not Jesus come to call sinners to repentance?

I am sure there are many good churches out there. But in the last two years I have heard hundreds of stories that make me nauseous, stories that show how hundreds of churches know nothing of grace.

My personal conclusion is that if a person is incapable of extending grace to others, that he or she has never truly experienced God’s personal grace in their life.

Why oh why are so many of our churches devoid of the one thing that should distinguish us from the rest of world: grace. I would like to hear from you why.

The question is not rhetorical.


Bill, unfortunately I have personally experienced a similar fall. However, I am pleased to confirm that churches that practice the grace and restoration that we preach actually exist! My sin was both public and great. Yet, the very body that had the best reason to shun me instead loved me while never condoning my sin. True restoration was possible because it was evident ,even while incarcerated, their love never varied! The consequences for my sin were and are great, however, the Body of Christ was and continues to be a place of restoration and growth!

I rejoice with you and praise you congregation for treating you with love and compassion. I don't geTimothy to hear many of those types of stories.

I know this is an old post. Unfortunately the questions posed are as relevant now as then. Perhaps an answer to this is found in the structure of american churches. Inerrancy of scripture, faith in God's sovereignty and grace, and humble acceptance of unmerited grace are pillars of salvation. Yet the dominate themes in churches laud our godliness, holiness, righteousness instead. We call ourselves "men of God", overcomers, prayer warriors, and many other such titles. Not only so, but we consistently apply scriptures to ourselves with great arrogance. One of my favorites for years was "I have never seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread". While that scripture is awesome, my own arrogance assumed that it applied to me, because I consider myself a good person. I have recently begun rethinking such nonsense. What is more fitting is David's statement "blessed is the man to whom God will not impute sin". While holding ourselves and our pastors up on such lofty pedestals, the only way to go from there is down. In my estimation, our greatest sin is one of pride. And that always goes before a fall. And it carries down not only ourselves, but others that we have propped up.

I know you asked for responses to this last night Dr. Mounce so I thought I would link a blog from Ted Haggard regarding your subject: I'm just a regular guy and not a theologian and I don't think I would be qualified in any manner to speak of whether Haggard should be qualified for ministry or not but I did think his words were quite appropriate. I think my reason for being sympathetic to his situation is that much of notoriety within christian circle is certainly built on relationships. It's not like any other big business I suppose in that it's 'all in who you know' and I most certainly do not consider big christianity a big business but we know it is in some respects. What I thought was really, really sad about Haggard's situation is that even though it was his own doing when the ax fell his friends abandoned him. It reminds me of the old song 'nobody knows you when you're down and out' that is often true sadly. We as christians shoot our wounded. Hey speaking of small worlds: I saw that you attended Bethel in St. Paul, Roseville/ Arden Hills I presume? I worked at the hotel that used to be on Lydia and Snelling: Paul's Place.

I think there's a great deal of biblical ignorance today. I think even many pastors don't spend a lot of time reading the Bible. So it's not a surprise to me that most people don't know that the entire ethics of the New Testament are based around love God and love your neighbor. I particularly like Isaiah 1. Where God says I don't care how many of the religious things you do, if you don't care about justice then I'm not listening to your prayers.