Tuesday, June 29, 2004
The Stand: Sin & Forgiveness
Basically, I'm tired of not being an Amy Grant fan.
When I was growing up, Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith were the tops on my list of who's cool in CCM. I'd do odd jobs, get paid, and rush to the Book & Bible Shop on Sunset Drive to buy the latest LP or cassette (yes, I'm that old - stop it!). I went with friends from church to see the Straight Ahead Tour, where Amy spent the entire evening hopping barefoot around the stage at the Township Auditorium and MWS was her keyboardist, taking the intermission set to highlight stuff from his MWS 2 project. I saw her again, front row center at the Carolina Coliseum in college, for the Heart In Motion Tour. I saw her at Carowinds one summer, and continued to buy her albums and CDs. I saw Michael W. Smith one time as a headliner, with dc Talk opening for the event in Greenville in the early 90s.
And then Amy released Behind The Eyes. I was struck by how beautiful it was musically and how empty and painful it was lyrically. Soon, rumors spread about her relationship to her husband, Gary Chapman. Officially, they separated and divorced, and I entered the ranks of those who appreciated her music, but looked judgmentally and bitterly at her for taking the "easy way out" of divorce. Her subsequent re-marriage to Vince Gill didn't help. MWS kept making albums, but I lost interest until the most recent Worship stuff. I didn't want to follow the crowd in slamming Amy (dang hypocritical of me, I know), so I slipped away from contemporary Christian music almost totally. She'd hurt me personally - even though it had happened to others, like Sandy Patty and Michael English, I'd taken this one much more personally, much more hurtfully. It's like I could've seen it coming in that one album, and then WHAM, we all got divorced and the blinders came off the relationship (let go of MWS, too - guilt by association).
Sin is anything that is outside the dominion of God. That might be too broad for you, or it might be too narrow. For me, it means that anything done, thought, articulated or contemplated that does not include God and His take on Reality and what really matters - that is sin. Where the Ten Commandments give a list of statements and warnings for the people of God, Jesus goes deeper in the Sermon on the Mount to address our inner heart issues, too. We cannot protest every abortion clinic and gay-rights establishment in town, and then neglect to take a stand against immoral taxation, the lack of ethics among business and political leaders, and the continued humiliation of minorities. We can't get righteously indignant and the preacher on TV spewing his false doctrine, and then join in with a smile in the gossip going on in the Sunday afternoon deacon's meeting. Sin is sin, and God doesn't like it because it's basically not good for us.
On the other hand, forgiveness is very real, isn't it? What is redemption if it's not a restoration of relationship, forgiving and moving forward together no matter the hurt or pain? I am so quick to point the finger of condemnation, and I am so slow at holding out a hand, saying, "C'mon, I forgive you, let's start walking together again". Jesus died for all sin - not just the big ones, not just the named ones, not just the top ten, but all of them - to forgive and restore and complete God's perfect character of justice coexisting with mercy (Romans 3:23-26). Where people are held accountable for their sin, we are also held accountable to forgive, to bring Jesus' victory to bear in removing the stain, the speck and our own logs.
I cannot hold your sin against you. I can learn from the fruitfulness of your life how much I can trust you, how truthful you are, how responsible you are - but I cannot look down on you because of sin. I must forgive, and I must convey that forgiveness in love and acceptance and kindness leading to repentance. It's not about a blind acceptance of a person's sin, but as much as it's possible, I have to give you the benefit of the doubt and love you past the sin. I can intercede, I can be kind & patient, and I can love you regardless of perceived wrongs because Jesus died for sin, yours and mine.
A friend of mine is going through a divorce, and in one email exchange, he wrote, "You'll just have to trust me on this one." He was absolutely right, and as I was reading it, Amy Grant came on my MusicMatch station, streaming through the headphones. Something from the Straight Ahead LP - and I thought, "I hate not being an Amy Grant fan." I can be my friend's fan, and I can be Amy's fan. Despising what has happened, and the level of un-love that exists in this world because of sin, I can still look on them with love and admiration, just like Jesus does even now.
Mark Shipman, in his book At The Feet Of Jesus, writes, "Humans are most godlike when they forgive. They are most devilish when they accuse. Accusation and forgiveness are the extremes in the war between good and evil (as illustrated in Zech. 3:1-4)", p. 13.
We've all fallen short of the glory of God. We've all dropped the ball and acted ruthlessly and selfishly. There are things we've done that other people are in jail for - think about that a little bit and wiggle in your chair in front of the PC. And through all of it, and in spite of all of it, God doesn't hold our sin against us. He gave His only begotten Son to maintain His own integrity and holiness and character in the midst of wanting to spend time with us. The least I can do is look at others the same way. And I don't have to hide my Amy Grant CDs anymore.