Recently, Audrey Assad announced that she was a former addict and that her story was included in the new book, Delivered (from Catholic Answers). I follow Audrey on Facebook, and the results of that announcement (which is not the first time she has announced her past struggles) broke my heart. Many were supportive. Some were indifferent. Some confessed appreciation for Audrey’s bravery.
And then there were those few, the stone-bearers. It is to them that I write this post, to those who stand in our churches with their eyes toward Heaven thanking God that they are nothing like those people. They do not fellowship with those people. They do not sing with those people.
How dare you.
How dare you even pretend to represent Christ and betray His Grace. How dare you stand in your pews, turning up your nose at your own brothers and sisters in Christ- fellow image bearers, fellow redeemed, fellow ransomed, fellow loved. How dare you discredit someone’s ministry based on their past. How dare you believe you are any different.
It breaks my heart. Shame has no place in the church. It has no place among the redeemed of Christ. It does not belong here. Shame and grace do not and cannot co-exist. Either you advocate grace or you advocate shame. Those are your choices.
Try as I may I just cannot figure out this toxic shame that the church applies to sexual sin, especially past sin. Consider this: a former drug addict confesses saving grace in Christ and is met with “glory, hallelujah.’ A former porn addict confesses saving grace in Christ and we condemn them for talking about such things in church. We remove them from ministry because we feel their very testimony of grace could poison minds.
Let me ask you a question: How can you take offense to something God Himself has forgiven? The grace of God is enough to cover any sin, from stealing a bag of candy at the local gas station to sleeping with your best friend’s husband. That is the reality of grace. Some of you do not like that.
You would rather brand sexual sinners, label them modern-day lepers and cast them to the outskirts of your Christian community. That is not how Christ dealt with sexual sinners. In fact, in the instance of the woman caught in adultery, He saved her from stone-bearers. With the woman at the well, He stayed and had a conversation with her, a loving conversation.
The women who write to me should be able to turn to the church for help. There should be people reaching out to them, but all they feel is judgment.
That isn’t because the entire church is judging them, so don’t get me wrong. The judgmental ones just always seem to be the loudest. It is usually just a few who have major problems with reconciling grace- a grace that would even dare enter a brothel in the hopes of redeeming a soul, and would then treat that soul the same as it has treated you.
That’s God’s grace. It is messy. It is real. It is revolutionary, and it totally contradicts every feeling of ‘rights’ and ‘fairness’ we know as humans. It’s just not fair, and praise God it isn’t.
Take a look at Matthew 21:28-31
“What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” (ESV, emphasis mine)
I understand that sexual sin just feels different. I get that, but it is not, as some have said, “worse than the sin of Adam.” It is not irredeemable. When God forgives something, you are best to do the same. To do any different is to lie about the character of God that you are supposed to be reflecting.
No, you may not have ever even thought of watching pornography. The idea of masturbation may have never crossed your mind. You may find it disgusting, repulsive, putrid, etc. Many addicts feel the same. That’s why we want out.
It makes no difference how horrible you feel the sin is, never lose sight of grace. Remember, it is the same grace that saved you. Either you are an ambassador for that grace or you side with the accuser of the brethren. That’s it. There is no middle ground.