I need to start off by saying that the foremost benefit of God’s grace is in the atonement afforded through the finished work of Christ. His incarnation, going to the cross in our place, and rising from the dead transcends any “list.” It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway because I adore Him, Jesus is the most amazing thing about Grace. He, is the greatest benefit of having received God’s grace.
Now, to the rest of the post …
One relational benefit of grace is to meditate on the finished work of the cross with wonder, not shame or condemnation. This will deepen our relationship with God.
When we ask our Savior exactly why He went there for us specifically we will experience an outpouring of love from Him, not anger. It’s not difficult to imagine why He would go through all that for humanity with all the evil, sickness, and tragedy in the world. However, the atonement of Christ is also very specific for us as individuals. The Holy Spirit used this meditation as a new Christian to help me fall deeply in love with Him. Also, considering the cross is also not a quick “lesson learned” to check off of our spiritual enlightenment checklist. It is true that Jesus is no longer on the cross and doesn’t ask us to camp out there, but meditating on the personal meaning/application/significance of the Atonement will forever be relevant to us. There isn’t a time when this focus of meditation is not appropriate. Each time I consider what He has done, I fall deeper in love with Him.
Another relational benefit of grace is that now I am free from God’s law, I don’t have to live under the judgment of others.
Other’s judgments only have power when I allow them to have that power over me. In Christ, other’s curses do not have to go from their lips into my soul. Those bitter seeds die before they ever hit ground. Now, that I understand the loving favor of God toward me, I don’t need to try and manipulate favor with others. Of course I care and would like for people to like me :). But, truly, I don’t need others to “like” me in order for me to have a personal sense of worth or to love them. Their judgments don’t prevent me from seeking to see and love them as God does. Whether we agree or not, even on major issues, does not devalue either of us in the sight of God. That is what I choose to focus on.
When it comes to gay marriage as a public policy issue, I was once very outspoken on the topic. From the 2003 to 2008 I lobbied for marriage amendments in Massachusetts, Florida, New Jersey, California, and on other national media platforms (interviews.) I went to Washington DC more than a few times and lobbied for the Federal Marriage Amendment on Capitol Hill. I also visited the Bush White House a couple of times and sat 20 feet away from when President Bush made a statement in support of the Federal Marriage Amendment.
Because those experiences are not something I enjoy reflecting on lately, I have avoided writing this post. However, I can’t get away from it. If I was passionately willing to lobby for banning gay marriage at one point, I feel I should speak up on the topic if my views have changed.
To be clear, my view of marriage in a spiritual context has not changed. I believe the wedding union of husband and wife bears the image of God uniquely. Individually they bear His image equally and beautifully. Together they bear His image in a way that neither can do alone. I believe marriage between a husband and wife is transcendent; that Christ refers to the church as His Bride is stunning. One of my favorite meditations is to consider Christ and His Church in the symbolism of marriage.
What I am also trying to learn is how I can state my beliefs without being a jerk about it. I don’t have to contextualize my personal belief by insulting gay couples who have married or gay people wanting to get married. The beliefs that guide and direct my life also compel me to seek to be a blessing and friend to gay couples; to see God’s presence in their lives as individuals and as a couple.
I have also come to believe that trying to make our secular government impose my spiritual beliefs in this matter is not helpful or appropriate. Let me explain …
It was 1986. I was a senior in High School, and somehow I ended up with a group of guys at school sanding down an old short school bus. Two of them (brothers) had gotten the bus as a Spring Break present from their Dad. We gutted the thing, painted it black, and I painted, “Party Barge” on the sides. I also painted “Party Barge” on the little flip-out stop sign. It was no longer the iconic red and white flashing stop sign; it was now the solid black with gold Def Leppard-esque lettering “Party Barge” on it.
Surprisingly, my parents said I could go. However, like all the times before when I really wanted to do something, the night before they said I couldn’t go. They got mad because the boy’s father wanted them to sign a liability waiver for me to be in the Party Barge during spring break.
I don’t remember having a fit, but I do remember being incredibly angry. My parents relented at the last-minute (there is a lot to be written about that at a later date) and the next day the “Party Barge” crew headed to Pensacola.
Pensacola was boring. We thought MTV was there. They weren’t. However, we quickly traveled a million more miles to Daytona Beach where the MTV Spring Fest was actually happening.
It was wild.
I will never forget pulling up on the beach where there were practically naked young adults and crazy old people … EVERYWHERE! I was mesmerized.
My parents weren’t. I called them … eventually … to tell them we left Pensacola and were now in Daytona. To describe them as “not happy” is an understatement.