Monday, February 11, 2019

City Notes '19 | Drop the Stones: When a Story of Rejection Becomes the Invitation, and the Love Received Becomes Motivation

"I know why Amy loves so much: it's because she's been forgiven much."

Sometimes you read a book that you need to read at just the right moment. Drop the Stones: When Love Reaches the Unlovable by Carlos A. Rodríguez was that book for me.

Like the first chapter and the the fourth chapter, the eighteenth chapter also captured my attention in profound ways. There are many more chapters worth reading. If you resonate with what you've read so far, I encourage you to read the entire book. Also, Carlos Rodriguez is coming to Springfield, Massachusetts this Friday, February 15 for the Go Conference '19.

Chapter 18 | The Art of Judgmental Thinking

"If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don't like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself." + St. Augustine

Adultery is a major sin. It's a destructive malice that corrupts the sanctity of marriage. But it's just one of the 677 major sins in the Bible. It goes from selfishness, to fornication, to murder, to gossip, to being double-minded ... so it is clear that we are all sinful (and even more clear that we need redemption). The law proves we are imperfect; the gospel provides a perfect Savior.

Yes, we are God's children, a royal priesthood, adopted and beloved, the apple of His eye, but the apostle Paul carried a beautiful tension that we can all learn from. He went from calling himself "chief sinner" to telling people to "be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." He displayed his authority as a great missionary, while at the same time displaying the struggles of his human flesh. We could use a little bit of this tension. It's either too much about me and my greatness or too much about them and their wickedness. What would happen if we focused on the beauty of others while dealing with the transgressions of self? This is not about being soft on sin; this is more about the unbalance of being soft with our sins and tough on theirs.

What if the main thing we highlighted was our need for Jesus instead of the world's need for us?

I have a friend in Texas who throws the most extravagant baby showers for girls who have unplanned pregnancies. And when I say extravagant, I mean Texas extravagant. Her name is Amy Ford and her ministry, Embrace Grace, is now in hundreds of churches all across the United States. At nineteen years old, Amy went through the trauma of being rejected because of her unplanned pregnancy. She fainted moments before her abortion was to take place, and then she chose life ... and some friends still rejected her. The shame she carried was almost unbearable, yet she decided to trust God and raise her baby boy in love. Then she resolved to break the shame cycle and start a program in which young ladies could experience the joy of their miracle in ways she was never able to. 

Amy and her team have embraced the opportunity to celebrate new life and preach the story of redemption – one shower at a time.

I know why Amy loves so much: it's because she's been forgiven much. One time, Jesus was invited to a dinner party hosted by a Pharisee named Simon. A woman of the city, who was a known prostitute, fell to her knees and cried at the feet of the Holy Man. While everyone was looking, she poured out the most expensive oil, used her own hair as washcloth, and kissed the feet of Christ in adoration. Jesus knew people's inner thoughts, including Simon, and shared a short parable about two people who needed to be forgiven, one for a smaller debt and another for a greater debt (see Luke 7:36-50). He then asked Simon, "Which of the two will love the one who erased the debt more?" Simon answered, "I suppose the one who was forgiven the most." Jesus then told Simon to learn from the worshiping prostitute.

Jesus finishes His radical declaration with, "Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little."

I don't think Jesus was implying that the woman was more sinful (in quantity or quality) than the others in the room. It was only that her sins were more obvious, out in the open, and easier to define. We know from reading Matthew 23 that Jesus exposed and defined the sins of even religious leaders, too, and that would be the point. If you think you only struggle with a few things, then you will only be grateful for a few things. If you're aware of the many transgressions that consume you, then many will be your worship songs at the feet of Jesus the Savior.

There are 677 sins in the Bible. Whether you struggle with only one of them or 676 of them, "the wages of sin is death." Notice that "sins" is singular. Just one is enough. Judging a person who has three hundred visible sins does not deal with the three that you're hiding. That is why the art of judgmental thinking needs to be replaced with the beauty of awareness and gratitude, just like Amy Ford did in her life. She fell at the feet of Jesus, received His words of grace (for her life and child), and now lives that out for others.

Her story of rejection became the invitation. The love that she received became her motivation. What the enemy intended for evil, Jesus and Amy turned around for good.

Next City Notes post: Preemptive Love: A Guideline of Loving First and Asking Questions Later

Here are links to previous City Notes books:

Christ is all,

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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