Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Beside my computer

there is a pile of books. At the bottom of the pile is McLaren's A Generous Orthodoxy and at the top is Jesus And Divorce by Wenham and Heth. It is partly this last book that has sparked this post.

Among the various topics it covers is included a history of how the church has handled divorce over the years. By the time of Basil, bishop of Caesarea 'sinners' had to undergo exclusion until they had 'repented', where they would demonstrate their repentance through a series of punishments taking 15 years. This included weeping outside the door of the church during the service for 4 years, listening in the vestibule for 5 years, laying prostrate for 4 years, then having to stand in the meetings for 2 years.

In John 8v11 Jesus says to the woman caught in adultery "neither do I condemn you; go your way; from now on sin no more".

Last night Chris and I were praying with someone who had asked for courage. I was filled with the overwhelming pleasure God was taking in them, that they were not being held back by past things they had done wrong, but instead were pressing forward in Him and the new life they had been given.

It is so easy to make rules, laws or even guidelines that miss the grace of God and the restoration of God. Sin is such a terrible thing, and there's no question that it is, that it can mask the amazing forgiveness and grace of God. He always wants us to come back, turning from the things we've knowingly done that are against His will. He always wants us in relationship.

I had a curious picture once, after I'd knowingly sinned, of me battered and bloody, bruised and limping. It wasn't an image of what I'd suffered to get back to God, but instead of how I had become as I sinned - it was as if I had given myself to be beaten up and hurt. As I came back in repentance, so I became healed, stronger, fitter, able to walk without hobbling and to stand upright again. I think it's very easy to see ourselves as a little tougher or luckier than others when we sin and apparently get away with it, but this paints a very different picture.

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