By Julie Brunson, October 2017
One of the things that happens in the church is that sin gets identified as more significant than grace. It becomes something to hide in shame, especially when it’s something we don’t seem to be able to conquer without help. This fear creates demand that we define sin in such a way that we don’t commit it. We don’t want to be seen as wrong or weak. I think this is really what Jesus was talking about when he discussed the seed of the Pharisees. When we define sin in this way it becomes about getting it right or not getting it right. When this happens we end up dividing ourselves into the people who can LOOK like they get it right and the people who can’t fake it. Jesus was focused on truth in the inmost places. David the man after God’s own heart was that because of his genuine confession and repentance. When we claim that we have gotten it right, we deny our need for grace and the gospel. 1 John 1 talks about living in the light. Most of my life I’ve bought the idea that this means getting yourself to not sin. This created a lot of shame and separation as I struggled with my own sinfulness and moments of turning away from God. As I read it more, I have been drawn to the end of the passage where he says that if we claim to be without sin we lie. At its core the gospel is about the reality of our sin and our need for God to apply the sacrifice of Jesus to our debt.
Galatians 2:20-21 says, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So the life I now live in the body, I live because of the faithfulness of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing!”
I do not set aside God’s grace. When I believe that I get it right in my own strength, I set aside God’s grace. When I am angry at myself because I didn’t get it right in my own strength, I set aside God’s grace. When I require others to get it right in their own strength, I set aside God’s grace. In a community that is founded on the gospel of God’s grace rather than on the law, leaders must lead from a place of weakness at the foot of the cross. Peter was given authority in the church because he knew the saving grace of Jesus. He knew his need of Jesus. His weakness is literally recorded in the Gospels. One of the reasons that our church leaders fail so frequently is that we choose them based on our worldly sense it is to be a good, strong leader. This puts expectations on our leaders that are not founded in the gospel. When It promotes leaders hiding their sin rather than confessing and exploring meaningful repentance in the context of community. We must recognize that we are all ministers of reconciliation offering that reconciliation to each other through Christ. Only then will we find those who can offer a gift of leadership that comes from relying on the grace of Jesus.