Grace is not a hashtag. Grace is not passive. Grace is not an excuse to remain silent. Grace is not…

All of us need grace. I believe that with all of my heart. Grace is my daily prayer—that I receive it, that I embrace it, that I show it toward others. Every day, often many times a day, I ask God for grace. My heart wants to know grace, my soul longs to engage the world with grace. Which is why I wake up each day asking God to show me grace and to help me to know grace.

However, in my search to know and embrace grace, I’m also bewildered by how so many Christians name drop “grace.” I’ve seen “grace” show up a lot on this blog in the last few years, often when I’ve written about Mark Driscoll or told stories of people who have been deeply affected by Mark Driscoll’s ministry at Mars Hill.

Yesterday, one individual wrote, “This is between God and Mark. #grace.” The subtext of his tweet was that to show grace was to shut up. And perhaps for Mark our silence would feel like grace. But what about all of the people, the hundred of Mars Hill members who have suffered various forms of spiritual abuse under his care, is our silence grace for them too? Should we leave their stories between them, God, and Mark?

On Sunday, in a conversation online about Mars Hill, one guy said, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone…” His misuse of that story and its context aside, the subtext of his statement was that, unless you’re perfect, you have no right to say anything. That rather than speaking up against the perpetrator or speaking up for the victim, grace means you shut up, do nothing, and judge others with #grace.

Again, I need grace. I am far from perfect. But for the grace of God and the grace of my family, friends, and church go I. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility to stand up for people who have been hurt, abused, or silenced.

Grace is not a hashtag.
Grace is not “giving the benefit of the doubt.”
Grace is not passive or passive aggressive.
Grace does not harbor abusers.
Grace is not something to be demanded just because the conversation makes you uncomfortable.
Grace is not an excuse to remain silent.

Yes, grace is an idea filled with uncertainty. It’s a balancing act. It’s nonsensical. It’s otherworldly.

But grace is also present. Grace is intentional. Grace is active.

Grace is not a middle man negotiating a deal between bullshit and pain.

Sometimes grace calls out bullshit. Sometimes grace brings hope to those in pain.

But I cannot believe that grace would ever stand in the middle and remain silent.

Comments

  1. ephphathaThots says

    Matthew, i think it is cool how silly comments can lead to helpful conversation and even improving our Christian language.  Isnt that perhaps THE great work for modern church, constantly redefining and improving our sense of what certain theological words mean.  Thanks!

  2. ephphathaThots says

    Matthew, i think it is cool how silly comments can lead to helpful conversation and even improving our Christian language.  Isnt that perhaps THE great work for modern church, constantly redefining and improving our sense of what certain theological words mean.  Thanks!

  3. amielou31 says

    Best thing I ever heard from a Christian speaker was from a female Lutheran pastor: “Grace may be free but it is not cheap”.

  4. amielou31 says

    Best thing I ever heard from a Christian speaker was from a female Lutheran pastor: “Grace may be free but it is not cheap”.

  5. frognparis says

    I was instructed yesterday with this: “We all need to be reminded to not read all scripture as a list of do’s and don’ts (or be more like king David, etc) but that ALL scripture points to Jesus….the name for Grace.” Which seems to turn grace into a noun instead of a verb. What saddens me most is those within the reformed theology seem to twist what grace really is and turns it into an excuse, or a person, or…

  6. frognparis says

    I was instructed yesterday with this: “We all need to be reminded to not read all scripture as a list of do’s and don’ts (or be more like king David, etc) but that ALL scripture points to Jesus….the name for Grace.” Which seems to turn grace into a noun instead of a verb. What saddens me most is those within the reformed theology seem to twist what grace really is and turns it into an excuse, or a person, or…

  7. says

    “But I cannot believe that grace would ever stand in the middle and remain silent.”

    For me, the silence of others and their unwillingness to get involved hurt as much as the original abuse.

  8. says

    “But I cannot believe that grace would ever stand in the middle and remain silent.”

    For me, the silence of others and their unwillingness to get involved hurt as much as the original abuse.

  9. sojensparks says

    Living Liminal THIS. One of my closest friends sat by and watched my husband and I get stomped into the ground at our old church, because she knew it was suicide if she spoke up. “Grace” in this instance allowed our abusers to continue doing what got their means to an end. Except it wasn’t grace. It was fear with a “holy”, “obedient”, “non divisive” mask.

  10. sojensparks says

    Living Liminal THIS. One of my closest friends sat by and watched my husband and I get stomped into the ground at our old church, because she knew it was suicide if she spoke up. “Grace” in this instance allowed our abusers to continue doing what got their means to an end. Except it wasn’t grace. It was fear with a “holy”, “obedient”, “non divisive” mask.

  11. emergingchrist says

    Grace does not harbor abusers. Amen bro. If the Gospel is not Good News, it is not the Gospel. That is our no-brainer litmus test.

  12. emergingchrist says

    Grace does not harbor abusers. Amen bro. If the Gospel is not Good News, it is not the Gospel. That is our no-brainer litmus test.

  13. says

    Can you define “grace”? What is your definition of grace? Christians say the word “grace” so much, but I don’t know what specific definition they are actually using in their writing. I’m a follower of Jesus. What is the connotation and denotation of “grace” for you. Explain it in layman’s terms. I’m exhausted by long-winded Christian-ese.

  14. says

    Can you define “grace”? What is your definition of grace? Christians say the word “grace” so much, but I don’t know what specific definition they are actually using in their writing. I’m a follower of Jesus. What is the connotation and denotation of “grace” for you. Explain it in layman’s terms. I’m exhausted by long-winded Christian-ese.

  15. dragfreedrift says

    frognparis Grace is a verb, and as a noun it is novelty?

    Catholic perspective: grace is a quality imbued to us through the sacraments, prayer, and use of sacramentals. “Sanctifying grace” implies a transformation or marking of the soul. This, for example, comes from Reconciliation. “Actual grace” is God’s nagging voice in our conscience compelling us to pray more, go to confession, etc. In this way, grace is a thing that does something.

  16. dragfreedrift says

    frognparis Grace is a verb, and as a noun it is novelty?

    Catholic perspective: grace is a quality imbued to us through the sacraments, prayer, and use of sacramentals. “Sanctifying grace” implies a transformation or marking of the soul. This, for example, comes from Reconciliation. “Actual grace” is God’s nagging voice in our conscience compelling us to pray more, go to confession, etc. In this way, grace is a thing that does something.

  17. says

    LynnKalinosky margiehearron It can mean many things in it’s noun form.
    – mercy
    – elegant movement
    – a prayer or blessing
    – unmerited favor
    – divine love

    I think people should use the word “compassion” instead of grace when people are actually talking about being compassionate toward others. That would be far more clear than using the word “grace.” People are over using the word grace.

  18. says

    LynnKalinosky margiehearron It can mean many things in it’s noun form.
    – mercy
    – elegant movement
    – a prayer or blessing
    – unmerited favor
    – divine love

    I think people should use the word “compassion” instead of grace when people are actually talking about being compassionate toward others. That would be far more clear than using the word “grace.” People are over using the word grace.

  19. AC321 says

    Love this. ….
    You know I have heard about a lot who have been hurt and have lots to say about Mark Driscoll. I read one former elders story that I cried through, I knew it was genuine and real because the names changed would have been my story, over and over…. It’s a difficult thing, because I also so appreciate his words. I appreciate his messages, and love his style and boldness. I love that he is willing to take on the Carlton Pearsons and Deepak Chopra’s.
    But personalities being what they are, our greatest strength is often our double weakness, so it’s not too hard to believe control is his struggle. :-/ I most likely would not sit under him for very long because I have a slight knee jerk reaction to controlling and abusive authority.
    I pray that whatever he is doing, that there come some true repentance. That like David he would see the error of his ways. Like hot tempered Peter, and arrogant religious Paul, that God would turn his heart and humble him.
    I pray not just for him, but that those who have been hurt would hear repentance and be able to offer forgiveness. I have battled hurt and anger for many years now, still cry through church services because of the hurt I have endured at the hands of self seeking ‘leaders’. A place that used to symbolize a safe refuge, now is a battlefield of emotions, and I keep praying for God to heal my heart that I can trust again, while being wise as the serpent, too.
    I have seen too many times humble men from humble beginnings with a heart for God become dictating arrogant ‘royalty’, and it sickens me. Here’s the thing about it, though, David, Saul and Solomon, all guilty of being arrogant kings, but their stories ended differently. Leaders do deserve grace, but grace comes to the repented heart. Grace is the thread that is woven not just in the New Testament, David, Ruth, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Naomi (who changed her name to bitter) to Peter, and Paul, and classically illustrated the 2 thieves on the cross. Grace is given to the repented heart.
    In all my pain when I Have wanted to tell every secret of every leader, and tell people to run for the hills before a church door, I ask myself will this help anything/anyone really? Am I exposing for vengeance or justice, or to help others. (Sometimes the answer is a little of both) Because the same actions may be right or wrong depending on the heart motive. I know I am hurting, still, and the last thing I want to be guilty of is my Hurt repeating the cycle – ‘hurt people hurt people’ – though I know I have. Even in all my effort, I have hurt people. The only warning I give is that those who are so eager to expose is to ask yourself your motive, because God is looking at your heart. We answer to God as well. And if you aren’t speaking up for fear of man, You are as wrong as those who speaking out of vitriol.

  20. john leon says

    Of course we learn in Bible college the “technical definition” of grace…Grace is God’s unmerited or undeserved favor.  Indeed true, but probably one of the best definitions I’ve heard is one by Dr. Dallas Willard…”Grace is God acting in our lives to accomplish what we can not accomplish on our own.”  He even expands it further by saying, “Even if we had not sinned, we would still need God’s grace.  In essence, we will always need to be dependent upon God to do what only He can do…even in eternity…we will still need God’s grace!  Something to think about!  I rarely post in any forum, but couldn’t resist the impulse this time!

  21. john leon says

    Of course we learn in Bible college the “technical definition” of grace…Grace is God’s unmerited or undeserved favor.  Indeed true, but probably one of the best definitions I’ve heard is one by Dr. Dallas Willard…”Grace is God acting in our lives to accomplish what we can not accomplish on our own.”  He even expands it further by saying, “Even if we had not sinned, we would still need God’s grace.  In essence, we will always need to be dependent upon God to do what only He can do…even in eternity…we will still need God’s grace!  Something to think about!  I rarely post in any forum, but couldn’t resist the impulse this time!

  22. AC321 says

    Mercy is different than grace, and I suppose this (other’s ideas and definitions of grace) is the confusion. I have a plaque on my mantle that reads ‘Grace is when God gives us what we Don’t deserve. Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we *do* deserve’
    A small human analogy is when your child has misbehaved or perhaps been irresponsible to not do what you asked. Mercy says ‘I’m forgiving you without punishment – this is usually given when I see their genuine remorse that discipline is not necessary for the lesson to be learned. – Grace is when I as a parent bless my child in spite of their actions towards me. I.e. – Christmas presents and birthday parties is an expression and outpouring of love on them without ‘merit’. It’s not something they have earned, it is simply because i love them.
    Because grace and mercy seem very similar they are often used synonymously, and are indeed sometimes intertwined.

  23. AC321 says

    Mercy is different than grace, and I suppose this (other’s ideas and definitions of grace) is the confusion. I have a plaque on my mantle that reads ‘Grace is when God gives us what we Don’t deserve. Mercy is when God doesn’t give us what we *do* deserve’
    A small human analogy is when your child has misbehaved or perhaps been irresponsible to not do what you asked. Mercy says ‘I’m forgiving you without punishment – this is usually given when I see their genuine remorse that discipline is not necessary for the lesson to be learned. – Grace is when I as a parent bless my child in spite of their actions towards me. I.e. – Christmas presents and birthday parties is an expression and outpouring of love on them without ‘merit’. It’s not something they have earned, it is simply because i love them.
    Because grace and mercy seem very similar they are often used synonymously, and are indeed sometimes intertwined.

  24. RKBatson says

    I feel passionately about this, too. I grew up Free Will Baptist, which for us, meant grace was something talked about but rarely enacted. We had “bus kids” and “church kids” at our church with a great invisible divide. We discussed grace but were more concerned with what people were wearing, saying, or drinking. Yet, when my dad, the pastor, failed morally, suddenly, people were willing to dole out grace. I think it’s because he was one of them. There is this strange unspoken state in which a person of your own “tribe” so to speak can receive grace, but not someone who looks, sounds, or thinks differently. Finding the true meaning of grace has been a beautiful, tangled journey for me. I really enjoyed this post. I am starting to blog through my thoughts on it, mixed in with some humor, at rachelkingbatson.com. Thank you again for sharing. I look forward to reading more.

  25. RKBatson says

    I feel passionately about this, too. I grew up Free Will Baptist, which for us, meant grace was something talked about but rarely enacted. We had “bus kids” and “church kids” at our church with a great invisible divide. We discussed grace but were more concerned with what people were wearing, saying, or drinking. Yet, when my dad, the pastor, failed morally, suddenly, people were willing to dole out grace. I think it’s because he was one of them. There is this strange unspoken state in which a person of your own “tribe” so to speak can receive grace, but not someone who looks, sounds, or thinks differently. Finding the true meaning of grace has been a beautiful, tangled journey for me. I really enjoyed this post. I am starting to blog through my thoughts on it, mixed in with some humor, at rachelkingbatson.com. Thank you again for sharing. I look forward to reading more.

  26. john leon says

    RKBatson  Hello…Thank you for your meaningful exchange.  You’re right, in the “larger picture” many believers do not understand God’s grace.  And yet, it is constant and consistent throughout Scripture.  There is not one person in all of the Bible that did not need God’s unmerited favor…Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul; etc.  We tend to think about the great exploits these godly servants accomplished, forgetting however, it was “God showing up” and enabling and empowering these men to do what they did.  For me, that ‘s God’s grace…simply, God showing up and doing for us what only He can do!  But the key to it all is determined by “if” we will let Him.  That was something the Israelites would not allow and that is what determined their tragic outcome.  Humility is central to allowing God to do in our lives what only He can do!

    I’m glad you are and have been working through the disillusionment you experienced.  God is transcendent over any of our circumstances, especially the painful ones.  Again, thanks for sharing a part of “your story”…Blessings, john

  27. john leon says

    RKBatson  Hello…Thank you for your meaningful exchange.  You’re right, in the “larger picture” many believers do not understand God’s grace.  And yet, it is constant and consistent throughout Scripture.  There is not one person in all of the Bible that did not need God’s unmerited favor…Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Peter, Paul; etc.  We tend to think about the great exploits these godly servants accomplished, forgetting however, it was “God showing up” and enabling and empowering these men to do what they did.  For me, that ‘s God’s grace…simply, God showing up and doing for us what only He can do!  But the key to it all is determined by “if” we will let Him.  That was something the Israelites would not allow and that is what determined their tragic outcome.  Humility is central to allowing God to do in our lives what only He can do!

    I’m glad you are and have been working through the disillusionment you experienced.  God is transcendent over any of our circumstances, especially the painful ones.  Again, thanks for sharing a part of “your story”…Blessings, john

  28. CarolineGutierrezAbreu says

    I believe that there are two kinds of grace… Big G Grace, or God’s Grace, and Little G grace, or the kind we are capable of as humans. We benefit from the endlessness of God’s Grace in our salvation and forgiveness… but part of that is our inheritance of grace. Big G Grace is offered to us unconditionally; anyone, at any time, regardless of their past or present, is free to be bathed in the Grace of God, even on their deathbed. Yet, this spiritual Grace would not, does not, prevent the middle world fallout of our behavior from coming home to roost. We are asked, in the span of time that we are alive, to emulate our Savior with love and grace. However, we are not asked to ignore or overlook the ways others do not behave within the law or at the very least secular ethical standards. We do not have to tolerate abuse or rejection. We can walk away from it and shake the dust from our feet, and allow the established law of the land to take its course. If we don’t agree with the law, we can study it with love and grace and attempt to make changes that reflect our knowledge that we are running on Grace, that we are not the ultimate Judge but that we do not have to sit silent with the misbehavior of others. We can forgive *them*; we do not and often should not forgive their action. I think within that system of understanding, and particularly in a church, which is supposed to be acting like a single incorporated body, we should know and deal with ourselves appropriately and compassionately at all times. Sometimes your body needs a cleansing. Sometimes you need a transplant because a part has died or is dysfunctional. Yet, all the parts must work together with grace; if a part is diseased, resistant to repair, and allowed to stay in the system, eventually the whole body dies. I do not know Mr. Driscoll. But from what I read, he is a dysfunctional part that is causing the body of his church grief and pain. It is time for him to be amputated or replaced, so that the body can heal.

  29. CarolineGutierrezAbreu says

    A caveat… as God’s Grace is dependent upon our repentance, and our path as Christians can be pock holed and erratic, we need to remember that even though we are protected by the shelter of Grace, as our brothers and sisters in Christ are, we need to be repentant to receive it, and make an effort to change our behavior to be more aligned with love and grace. I don’t believe people “lose” their salvation, once we have been saved… but we may lose our way on the path, stumble, and get turned around. Realignment with the path, redirecting self back to following Christ, requires admitting we are wrong and committing not to do it again. We can be compassionate with a person, but if they are not repentant or willing to change, they are not headed in the right direction yet. Perpetual human forgiveness without those things is really enabling.

  30. john leon says

    CarolineGutierrezAbreu 

    In all due respect, I must disagree with your statement…”Grace is dependent upon our repentance.”  You probably did not intend to imply “that it is dependent upon ‘our’ works,” but that is your inference.  Repentance is actually dependent upon Grace, for without grace, there will be no repentance.  Rom. 2:4 says as much…”Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to LEAD you to repentance?”  God’s kindness (or goodness in other translations) is what leads men to the “genesis” of repentance.  That is God’s grace at work.

    As I said in the beginning of my posts…Grace is God acting in our lives to accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own!  We need God’s grace to cultivate the paradigm shift in our lifestyle…which is a radical reorientation of our entire human personality…our heart, soul, mind, and body!  When these “constituents” are transformed, then our outward behavior is transformed, also!  This is the essence of “repentance”…transformation toward Christlikeness which is produced by God’s Grace (Rom. 8:29)!

  31. john leon says

    CarolineGutierrezAbreu 

    In all due respect, I must disagree with your statement…”Grace is dependent upon our repentance.”  You probably did not intend to imply “that it is dependent upon ‘our’ works,” but that is your inference.  Repentance is actually dependent upon Grace, for without grace, there will be no repentance.  Rom. 2:4 says as much…”Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to LEAD you to repentance?”  God’s kindness (or goodness in other translations) is what leads men to the “genesis” of repentance.  That is God’s grace at work.

    As I said in the beginning of my posts…Grace is God acting in our lives to accomplish what we cannot accomplish on our own!  We need God’s grace to cultivate the paradigm shift in our lifestyle…which is a radical reorientation of our entire human personality…our heart, soul, mind, and body!  When these “constituents” are transformed, then our outward behavior is transformed, also!  This is the essence of “repentance”…transformation toward Christlikeness which is produced by God’s Grace (Rom. 8:29)!

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