The Facade of Grace
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Here are two different scenarios that many Christians sometimes find themselves within when they start attending a new church. Both start with the facade of grace, then slowly, as the unaware Christian becomes more and more ensconced within the church, that facade deteriorates into something much less gracious.
Scenario #1: False Advertising
How many times have you heard a church claim salvation is by grace through faith alone? If you've attended many Evangelical or non-denominational Christian churches in your life, you've probably heard it thousands of times.
You try out a new church, you hear them preach the grace of God through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and you decide, "That's Biblical and it's what I believe, so I will attend this church."
Then you start attending on Sundays until you're pressured into joining a Small Group, where your relationship with Christ can be nurtured and your relationships with other God-loving Christians can begin.
You go to the Women's Group, everyone seems so nice and loving. Everyone begins talking about their struggles over the past week, their faith, they ask questions, and your initial shy and closed off demeanor begins to relax into a much more comfortable and open one.
You're asked how long you've been going to "the church," and then asked how much you decided to start giving as a new member, because "I'm just curious to see if anyone could possibly pay less than I did when I was a new member *giggle*."
In your naive honesty and openness, you say you don't believe in paying tithes. A collective gasp surrounds you. You are then given a lesson on why you must give to the church in order to be considered a member, in order to be a good, faithful Christian, and in order to protect yourself from greed and selfishness.
You feel uncomfortable. Your wall goes back up, and you retreat in silence back to the shy woman you were when you first entered the group. If you thought disagreeing with the church's position on tithing was going to get you into trouble, you never would have said anything about it in the first place.
The women are satisfied with their rebuke of your misguided beliefs, and the discussion switches gears. The Small Group leader opens her Bible to this week's verses, which are in 2 Corinthians chapter 6. She reads aloud from verse 10 until she reaches verse 14, where her tone changes and emphasis are put on the words very obviously.
"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"
She looks up from her Bible and peers around at the other women in the group. "Who here has an experience with being pressured to socialize or fellowship with an unbeliever? What did you do, or say? Did you cave, or stand your ground in the Word of God?"
You swallow hard. Beads of sweat begin to form on your temple. Your pray. God, please don't make me talk about this.
One by one the other women begin bragging about how they've been approached by a friendly atheist or agnostic at work or school or some other place with an invitation to the movies, to have a drink, or to attend a party. Various accounts of kindly saying no or openly explaining to the unbeliever that they do not fellowship with non-Christians ensues. Then, everyone looks at you.
"What about you? Has this ever happened to you before, and what did you do?" the Group leader asks you.
"Uh...um...I can't remember ever having something like that happen to me."
"Really?" she asks. "Never?"
You smile nervously.
Your husband is agnostic. Your best friend is agnostic. For Pete's sake, your entire family consists of agnostics, atheists, and even the occasional Pagan. You love them all, and "fellowship" with them all.
"No," you insist.
The women stare at you, unconvinced, but then switch gears again. They begin talking about their marriages, and you take a deep breath of relief, then suck it back in when you hear your name.
"How is your husband liking the Men's Group?" someone asks you.
"Oh, uh...he doesn't go to the Men's Group," you answer.
"What? Why not? Didn't he sign up when you signed up for the Women's Group?"
"No, he didn't come with me on Sunday."
"Why not? Doesn't he go to church?"
"Uh...no, not really," you finally answer.
"Why not? Isn't he a Christian?"
For a moment you just sit as still as you can manage. Maybe if you don't move, they won't be able to see you and they'll leave. Like playing dead, you think. Then, Screw it. I'm never coming back here again anyway. They already judge me for not paying tithes. May as well embrace it.
"No, he's agnostic," you admit.
Another collective gasp.
"Why did you marry a non-Christian?" the Group leader asks.
You stare at her with an expression that's like a mixture of disbelief, confusion, anger, and humiliation. What can you say? You don't know what to say. You say nothing. Just stare at her with flushed cheeks and pursed lips.
You've just been humiliated in a group of complete strangers. Christian women who tout grace and love, but have already judged and scolded you for disobeying the unspoken laws of their particular brand of Christianity.
What happened to the grace that was talked about at the Sunday sermon, or on their website, and in their pamphlet when you first walked into the church?
Scenario #2: All The Sparkly Things
You and your family have just moved to a new city, left your beloved home church behind, and you're on the hunt for a new one. You can't stand the legalistic demands that more religious denominations put on Christians, so you know that you're looking