If you haven’t heard the latest blow up in the blogosphere here it is. Andy Stanley, a megachurch pastor from Atlanta in the States preached a message called “When Gracie Met Truthie” which was based on John 1:14. The point of the passage is that Christians and churches need to hold both to grace and truth. You can’t let go of one or the other, or you can’t lean to one or the other because Jesus embodied both grace and truth perfectly. Near the end of the sermon he has a killer line “The church is at its best when it embraces grace and truth and refuses to let go of either.” This is a line which all biblical Christians can embrace. Not only that, all Christians can embrace much of the sermon because Stanley spoke very powerfully of the grace and truth of the bible and Jesus’ ministry.
The issue came with an illustration he used. In the illustration he told of a couple with a daughter who divorced when the wife discovered that the husband was in a homosexual relationship. The woman then told her former husband and his gay partner to move to another church. They did move. Not to another church but to another North Point location where they volunteered on a welcoming team. The woman later told Andy Stanley that her former husband and his partner were now involved as volunteers in the other congregational location. She then told Stanley that her ex-husband’s gay partner was still married. Stanley then explained that the partner was actually committing adultery, and that the adultery was incompatible with him being on a welcoming team. Stanley told the two men that they could not serve on the welcoming team because one man was still married. The story ended with the former wife’s decision not to live in bitterness but to bring the whole new family (Her daughter, ex husband, his lover, her new boyfriend and her new boyfriend’s daughter) to a Christmas service.
This is a confusing message, is adultery sin but homosexuality not? I am sure that Stanley would not say that homosexuality is fine. But to use this story and not be clear on all sin is a very confusing message. Would a person who is gay walk away being affirmed in their sexuality but a person who is caught in adultery not?
The church needs to be welcoming to all people caught in all types of sin and folly but we don’t do it by soft-pedalling sin or telling stories that may show God’s love, but that don’t speak clearly into people’s lives. We need to hold onto both truth and grace. As Stanley himself said:
“The church is at its best when it embraces grace and truth and refuses to let go of either.”