Grace is a slippery truth. In my faith tradition, I was taught to preach the gospel constantly to myself for exactly this reason. Our sin nature, the Devil’s wiles, and cultural scrupulosity conspire to make it easy for us to forget the gospel.
I’ve always thought it odd that we gospel people so easily fall prey to the false gospel of moralism. Sometimes moralism is directed at myself; sometimes it’s directed at others. In the wake of the right kind of mishap, I can spiral into self-doubt and self-accusation about my own pitiable nature. Yet just as quickly, I can start casting aspersions on those who’ve made similar mistakes. Only the grace of the gospel can pull me out of the pendulum swing.
We’re often tempted to apply grace abstractly, with a brush of the hand, a proverbial fig leaf over a deeper, darker problem. But Timothy King’s story of his struggle with opioid addiction (p. 34) shows how the shame King fought was alleviated by his deeper understanding of one aspect of the gospel: Yes, he is a sinner, but there is nothing he could do to erase the image of God in which he was created. This truth became concrete as his doctor, his mother, and his church made that grace real to him in the way they treated him in his addiction and recovery.
This is what’s known as the whole truth. It’s not about shifting blame. It’s about sharing one another’s burdens.
Mark Galli says this in another way in his editorial (p. 27). Church discipline (and discipleship) starts with sharing responsibility for one another in Christ. None of us can possibly bear the full weight of growing up in Christ, and sometimes, we have a hard time remembering even the most important truths when we ...1