Grace is for Everyone

We’re coming to the end of Andy Stanley’s “The Grace of God.” And while it’s been a fantastic book, it stirs up a lot of unresolved business in me. Which is I suppose why we needed to read this book. Because unresolved business turns into wounds and bitterness. And God loves me too much to want me to walk around plagued by wounds and hardened by bitterness.

This week’s chapter was extremely painful for me to read. I was reading Stanley’s words about how the church is the answer, and all I could think of was how, for me, the church has usually been the problem and not the solution. My first abuser was a church member, and throughout my life, I’ve been repeatedly rejected by churches and church members, including being asked to leave a church when I reported to the youth pastor a youth worker who was in an inappropriate relationship with a youth (and eventually molested that youth).

No, the church has never been a place of healing for me, sad to say.

And so I continue to bleed on the page as I talk about it.

I want to believe that church is a place of grace, but I guess first, I need to find within myself grace for the church who hasn’t always been graceful to me.

But in this difficult chapter, Andy Stanley also talks about my favorite aspect of grace – and it’s the very aspect that I most need to exercise:

Grace is for everyone.

Stanley says, “…it’s not your grace. It’s not my grace. It’s God’s grace. And it’s for everybody.”

That means it’s not just for me. And it’s not just for church people. And it’s not just for pastors. And it’s not just for lovely people with nice personalities. It’s for the grumpy man who lets his dog do his business next to my patio and then doesn’t clean up after it. It’s for the lady who instead of appreciating my effort, yelled at me when I did her a favor. And it’s for the pastor who called me a liar and sent me away, months before learning that his protégé was molesting a youth in the church.

Stanley says that “the church is most appealing when the message of grace is most apparent.” And that’s true about me, too. I’m a better, more loving person when grace is flowing in my life. My hope and prayer is that even as we close the covers on this book, the grace continues to flow in my life, and I learn to forgive and walk in open-handed, open-hearted grace.

This post is part of a weekly discussion that my friend, Jason, and I are co-facilitating on Andy Stanley’s “The Grace of God.” Feel free to stick around and chat, even if you haven’t read the book. If you have written a response to this chapter, link it up at the widget below. 

 

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Comments

  1. “No, the church has never been a place of healing for me, sad to say.”

    I’m learning to redefine church based on a reading of Matthew 18:20 – it stopped being about the big buildings, the big gatherings, and even the “small group” movement for me. Church of the Mustang – a friend who loves to drive her Mustang convertible down back roads in three states while we talk writing, music, and God. Church of the Coffee Shop – where friends gather to talk about how God is changing their lives.

    Even a scaled-down church like this can be hurtful – we are all, at times, hurting people who hurt people. I hate what has happened to you in the church setting – but I’m not surprised…been there, done that.

  2. Sarah Salter says:

    Rick, ever since I was 21, and I left the church where the pastor called me a liar, I’ve learned the hard way that church can be anywhere and everywhere. But I definitely feel a void from not being part of a church family. I’ve looked into some since I moved over a year ago, and not found a good fit. I’m still praying for a church HOME…

  3. I know what you mean – but I wonder about that sometimes, as regards myself. I play guitar on the praise team at two different churches. One is our “home” church in Sioux Falls, attendance between 4 – 8K, good musicians, charismatic pastor, guest speakers/performers, yada, yada, yada…I have connected with some folks there, but I can’t say it feels like home. The other is a little American Reformed Church, around 800 folks or so – some growth; the musicianship is uneven, the congregation prefers the hymnbook to anything new – but I feel connected there, as does Joy.

    You fit fine here, Sarah – and I hope that the pastor contacted you to apologize once he found out.

  4. Sarah Salter says:

    Rick, the best church I ever went to was the home church I went to for the three and a half years I was in college. The MOST we ever had was 12. We had acapela music, which I led, with little paper leaflets. But it was a FAMILY. I miss it.

    And no, he never called to apologize. Several times after I left that church, I ran into him or his wife in town. They pretended not to see me. Now, I live 3000 miles away. So, it’s best for me to forgive and move on.

  5. That family feeling? Absolutely a must have – sounds like Church of Christ, with the a capella tunes.

    At a church we attended while I was undergoing cancer treatment about 3 1/2 hours from home, we had received permission to borrow a laptop from the church’s library. My wife has a gift/curse of being able to do things with/to electronic devices and software that I, a former help desk staffer, could not figure out how she did them. One day, she managed to get lost in the inner works of the laptop and found a stash of porn that “belonged” to the senior pastor, who had just turned in his resignation. We turned the machine over to the elders, one of whom was a computer security specialist – he couldn’t dispute the validity of what we had found ( I did a little more digging myself once the first discovery had been made). The upshot there? We were told to not say anything to anyone, because he was resigning and they didn’t want to hurt his chances of getting another pastoring gig. We left, more in sadness than in anger – this same pastor had told us a few years before that we, as volunteers, would be seeing the soft underbelly of the church. Yep. Right about that.

    Today, if I were to see the guy, I’d greet him. He knows what we found, and I suspect he knows we left the church as well, but grace and forgiveness extends to all – every one of us.

  6. As I read the chapter this week and again as I read your post, one thought kept coming to the forefront of my mind. The Church is not a building on a hillside with a steeple and a bell. We are the church.

    Our purpose as given by God was to be established in grace and to extend that same grace to all.

    If we fail to find grace in the church building, then more than likely we are failing to find grace in ourselves, the Church, as well.

    My thoughts lead me to Matthew 22 where Jesus tells the parable of the wedding feast. The last verse holds me captive this morning.

    “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” ~Matthew 22:14

    Grace is offered to all, but not all accept and receive it. The ones who do, they are the Church – they are the Bride of Christ. If we fail to find grace in others, we may first need to seek it within ourselves.

    These thoughts really have me convicted this morning. I want to rebel against them, but I know I cannot.

  7. I was really hoping to be able to post on this chapter. It was a great one and a hard one for me as well.
    While I haven’t had your experiences within the church but I’ve experienced lack of grace that has caused me to leave churches and to be harsh with Christians. I guess I’m a skeptic regarding most people who call themselves Christians and this is something God has been dealing with me on. I have to do my part and leave others to Him. There’s no perfect church so I have to do what I”m called to do.

    Thanks so much for sharing. It helps to know that there are other Christians who’ve experienced this lack of grace inside churches.

  8. We do have to have gatherings of grace for sure, but when the Church is a conduit of grace everywhere we go? Wow, what a shift that will cause in lives, neighborhoods, and society. It’s sad the things you and so many others have been through, but at the same time, I’m so glad God hasn’t given up on us. We have to know grace to release grace–not just once, but over and over and over again. Thanks Sarah.

  9. Sarah Salter says:

    “If we fail to find grace in others, we may first need to seek it within ourselves.” VERY true, Dusty! And definitely what I’m working on!

  10. Sarah Salter says:

    TC, there are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people. And if I found a perfect church, I’d just mess it up. :-)

    But I still miss church. And one day, I hope to find one again.

  11. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason, I’m trying hard to be a grace releaser AND a grace receiver. I don’t find either to be easy. :-)

  12. Just came across this post and must tell you how much I enjoyed the honesty found in your words. Love what Jason said, we have to know grace to release grace…my goodness that was a two edged sword wording. I don’t believe there is any other way to know grace then to see it through His pain as He hung there taking all of our sins on Him. His pain released us from the bondage of our sin and others sins upon us. There is nothing easy about it for sure yet possible through the never ending grace He pours out to us. So glad I stopped by. Blessings my sister.

  13. Sarah Salter says:

    Betty, Jason’s words bring me back to this: “To whom much is forgiven, much is required.” And really, we ALL have been forgiven much. Thank you for coming by and sharing, and ENCOURAGING! :-)

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