Thursday, January 7, 2010

Grace and Forgiveness

Yes, but commitment to Christianity couldn’t prevent Bill Clinton from dallying with an intern, Senator David Vitter from contracting with prostitutes, and Senator Larry Craig from being arrested for solicitation in a men’s room, amid thousands of other examples.

Christianity and other major religions provide solid ethical frameworks, but that’s not enough. Whether one is Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian, staying faithful to one’s spouse is a test of character, not faith.
So on the one hand: when these men sin they are charged by the culture as hypocrites to the faith--which implies when the person is not faithful his act has indeed tested his faith as if to tear his confession asunder. On the other hand, now they are held up as serious practitioners who failed. Clearly, there is little serious reflection on the teachings of Christianity about sin, handling sin, grace, forgiveness and redemption.

The whole point of the Tiger Woods scandal is that his character failed: now what? Enter grace, forgiveness and redemption. Sadly for most, redemption means winning back the affection and love of family, friends and public to restore one's image. That is not the Christian notion of redemption. Jesus died to pay for sin so that sin is cleansed. To this the Christian returns even in his failures.

Well of course Christians can be adulterers. But the point of Christianity is that you can be forgiven and true forgiveness brings transformation. Even with all that we are still sinners and we still have lusts that wage war inside us--yet there is constant forgiveness (1 Peter 2:11; 1 John 1:7-2:2) . It is God's mercy not our moral effort--even in our post-conversion state.

Brit Hume clearly gets this, see this CT interview:
Some have questioned whether Christianity can help you be more faithful to your spouse.
I don't think you draw a straight line that way. My sense is that if you turn to Christ and seek his forgiveness and mean it, you'll get it. You will be impelled and inspired to live the Christian life. Christianity is a religion for sinners. It doesn't encourage you to sin, it encourages you not to, but it provides a way of forgiveness and redemption. That's what Tiger Woods, like many sinners, needs. That's something we all need. He, in his particularly desperate moment here where he appears to be losing his family, is in special need of it. And I hope he finds it.
Some people might say, "What about Christians like Ted Haggard or Mark Sanford"
I don't think I would blame Christianity for the failings of people like that. Christianity is the right religion for people like that. Christianity is a religion for sinners. Christianity is not about the salvation of perfect people. Christianity is a way for people who are not perfect to be saved. What Mark Sanford needs is not less Christianity. He needs more of it.

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