Community of Grace
The kind of community I envision would be a community of grace and peace, of love and hope. A safe place to get help and not be judged for bad choices and be taught new and better ways to live. A safe place to wrestle with, challenge, and openly state your problems, issues, troubles, hang-ups, obstacles, and disagreements without worrying you would be judged or excluded. This community would be open to other viewpoints and would not force our positions or perspectives on others. We would not say to be a Christian you must do this or that, but openly share our views and show what it means to follow Jesus. We would try to create a space for wrestling with the bible, faith, life, and everything. I hope this wrestling and challenging would cause us to do more than just this. I hope that we would go out and be of service.
I am currently part of a church much like the above, a place where I have been able to grow into and towards the kind of person I want to be. It has provided a place where I can study and wrestle with the bible, with a group of men who enjoy my company and yet challenge me to grow into the person they know I want to be and can be. This church is a space of grace that invites others to follow Jesus. This church has prompted me to step out in faith and towards my future. This church has provided me with space to grow in faith and to see what it really means to follow Jesus today.
I want the church I pastor in the future to be a space of grace. I want not just to be an open, loving, compassionate place for Christians in every stage of the faith life, but also to others who don’t call themselves Christian. I want this community to be open to those outside the Christian faith willing to converse and be of help to them. This church of the future would be an interfaith community willing to comfort the troubled and trouble the comforted. This place of grace would be a true community in the community. It would offer studies and classes that would be for seekers and the curious as well as those already Christian and those who have no desire to go to a regular church.
This hope and need for a space of grace has grown from my experiences in churches that were opposite and opposed to this. I once attended a church that preached nothing but sin and how wicked we are. I am not denying sin (as I once did) that sin is real and I am denying how wrong our world really is. Yet, it has been my personal experience that I have grown more in the gospel of grace than the gospel of sin management. Guilt and repression doesn’t help us change being in and around love and grace does help us change.
Writer and speaker Peter Rollins writes, “The answer is creating a space of grace in which we are invited to bring our darkness to the surface, to speak of it in an environment in which we will not be condemned or made to feel guilty, a community that will let us speak our anxieties and darkness without asking us to change. In short, a place where we can confront our humanity rather than running from it. The trick is to create an atmosphere of love, grace and acceptance where people are not told what to do. While there are destructive things we do, they can be brought to the light without fear of condemnation. In such an environment, ethical acts will emanate from the body just as heat emanates from light. One will not have to be taught that they should look after their neighbor as if it were something that we need to be told, they will simply be more inclined to do so.”
I agree with Rollins. It seems we tend to concentrate on the ‘I won’t look… I won’t touch… I won’t smell…’ which leads us to dealing mostly with symptoms rather than what the real causes are. In a space of grace we are more able to be who we are to be transparent without worrying we will be judged or punished for it. Also, we are able to see how others live and think and able to process it. We are able to talk about what it means to follow Jesus and not worry too much about getting the right answers. There will be no test. As we look deeper at ourselves, others, and Jesus we can start to see what it means to live life with and in God.