Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Redemptive grace. . . . .

Redemptive Grace . . . .

Several weeks ago I blogged about the cover of OK! magazine that featured teenager Jamie Lynn Spears and her newborn baby. My concern was – and is – that we’re experiencing a fundamental shift in our culture regarding premarital childbearing and parenting. There are numerous cultural forces coming together to promote this shift. I think the cover of OK! serves as both a map and a mirror in terms of this shift. . . . making a strong statement that is not only normal, but "ok."

If you read the comments to that blog you’ll see that one person in particular took issue with my perspective. In follow-up, I want to clarify how important it is for us to maintain a balanced biblical perspective that guides not only our own thinking and response, but our ministries to our kids as well.

Here’s the deal: we know that premarital sex is not part of God’s design and plan. Neither is the breakdown of the family. Nor is premarital pregnancy, fatherlessness, or a single teenaged mom raising a child. Still, these things happen and they have to be balanced with the fundamental value of all human life. So how do we respond? This is where the balance comes in. We are to be prophetic, preventive, and redemptive. We proclaim the timeless and unchanging truths of God’s Word to these situations in a prophetic sense. We are preventive in that we raise awareness of the issues, hoping to steer kids into making good and God-honoring decisions. But we fail miserably when our response to miserable failure is to shun, condemn, or become vindictive. . . . somehow thinking that we are serving and honoring God and His ways by doing so. No, we need to strike that redemptive balance that is marked by grace, mercy, and love.

Last Friday I attended the funeral of a one-week old baby. That precious little child had been conceived out-of-wedlock by a young mother. Two weeks from full-term, complications arose and there was an emergency delivery. The physical issues ran deep and there was a clear sense almost immediately that this baby would not live. Sadly, he died a week later.

In our self-righteousness, some of us might go so far as to try to “honor” God by taking what we erroneously think as “His side,” condemning the pregnancy and falling into the trap of not supporting and loving the young mother, or even thinking that a baby born in these circumstances should die. Believe it or not, I’ve encountered that kind of thinking in a lot of places. That type of thinking and living is anything but Biblical and God-honoring. When people fail to respond to the prophetic and preventive, why do so many think that the next step should be punitive and vindictive? Yes, discipline should not be shirked. But it must always be done from a redemptive posture that mirrors God’s grace and is always aware of the fact that “there but for the grace of God, go I.”

I saw that happen in beautiful ways on Friday. The parents of the young mother are followers of Jesus. While it’s been a difficult path, they’ve followed Jesus from the get go, assuming that redemptive posture that’s carried them through an unwed pregnancy, a week of emotional and physical suffering, a difficult funeral, and which will continue to carry this family to a place of healing and growth. A friend of mine officiated at the service. His word’s ministered to us all deeply.

But what really spoke to me in ways that I will never forget, was watching the family of this young mother surround her and her baby boy with amazing Christ-like love. It climaxed on Friday with their words of testimony to the sovereignty of God and His love for all precious human life. It became more intense as I watched the grieving grandfather carry a small white casket from the back of the hearse, across the grass, and to a grave. It intensified even more as Lisa and I chatted with that grandfather after the funeral.

I was reminded again of the pervasiveness of sin in our lives. The welcoming love of the Father to those whom He has called as His own. The forgiveness that is ours in Christ. And our need to humbly be to others, what Christ has been to us.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer has said, we don’t need cheap grace. Nor do we need graceless condemnation. Instead, we must become the hands and feet of Jesus, never failing to be a redemptive presence where there is deep brokenness and sin.

4 comments:

Ross Erb said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes. Over the years,I have had two young women in my youth group who became mothers without being married. While they struggled with their own guilt and shame, some of us struggled with how we should respond. My prayer is that as a congregation we have been able to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these young families. Surely they need that, just like the rest of us! To be prophetic, preventive, and redemptive...such a challenge.

PatRains said...

Amen, and amen! Well said.

jonathan said...

Walt, I am a missionary to inner-city; and at-risk youth. There are many times that christians don't believe that there are people within the church who would condemn those who have made poor choices. We run into someone who has aids and we feel like that person deserves aids because they are living a life of sin. My question many times is what do I then deserve for the sin in my life because God doesn't differentiate between lying, stealing, homosexuality. To Him sin is sin. We have many churches who refer students to us who are cutting, pregnant, suicidal, addicted to something and the students will tell us of how awesome their church is. On the other hand we also have more students who come to us either through their parents or by themselves who hate the church because of how the church treated them when they made their "problem" known as a means to obtain help and support. This is very sad to me because I honestly believe I have a job doing what I am doing because the church is failing. I know not all churches are failing but many people in the churches don't care. I am passionate about the church I believe it is God's tool for the New Testament and Today and our desire is to get these kids plugged back into healthy churches and there are many out there. All this to say I too have seen both sides and it is the most humbling and amazing sight to see when God's children act like His children and love people (not their sin) the same way Jesus would love them. Dawson McAllister told us one time that if Jesus was on earth today he believe that Jesus would be in ministries like ours and the rescue mission on sunday morning before being in the church because we don't have the luxury of kicking someone out. They don't have anywhere else to go. Thank you for your ministry it is vital to what we are doing in staying on top of culture.

Anonymous said...

Walt, This is a great article. I had premarital sex throughout high school and college before becoming a Christian. It was only by God's grace that I never became pregnant. I agree with you that these teens need the message of forgiveness through Christ and not condemnation. Christ's blood covers all.