Recently, a conversation was taking place where the discussion turned to the subject of the fathers/heroes of faith and the struggles that many of them faced during their lives. These “heroes” and “fathers” of faith weren’t the same ones we read about in the Bible in the Old Testament that did not have the benefit of Holy Spirit. Neither were they the ones we read about in the New Testament who actually did have the Holy Spirit but not the benefit of a fully compiled canon of scripture. These “heroes” and “fathers” were more contemporary architects of theology, doctrine, and thinkers who helped shape much of what we believe and how we interpret what we know to of the Christian faith.
It seems that among these champions and heroes of contemporary faith are men, who while having the benefit of the Holy Spirit and a complete canon of scripture, still faced challenges that do not reflect on them as modelling well what we today might see as a wholly holy life. What amazed me about many of the people discussing the imperfectness of these heroes was that many of them seemed to lack any sense of grace or mercy towards them, simply because they felt as though the Holy Spirit should have convicted them of their issues or that other people of faith who might have known their struggles should have confronted them regarding it.
There are a number of issues with this thinking. I believe that there are certain assumptions being made that reveal missed opportunities for today’s Church and presents new challenges when the Church misses out on showing mercy and grace for these heroes and fathers of the faith.
The Holy Spirit Does Not Override Human Will or Choice: The first thing we have to come to an agreement on is that the Holy Spirit does not override our will or choice. We still have the ability to make a decision for how we live our lives. While Christ died so that we could have a new nature, it did not mean that we would become incapable of sin. It meant that we would not be bound to living under the penalty of the Law and enjoy the benefit of living under grace because Christ fulfilled the Law.
When we assume that the Holy Spirit should have done something, we first assume that the Holy Spirit was inactive in the life of a person. However, people can still silence the voice and the nudge of the Holy Spirit when they give into fleshly desires, motivations or have not fully been renewed in all their thinking.
When We Lack Grace and Mercy We Lose: If there is one thing that I do know, it’s that when we as the Church lack the capacity to love and extend grace and mercy towards others, we lose out on receiving mercy and grace for ourselves. This point is brought out repeatedly in scripture. When Christ teaches the disciples to pray, part of this teaching also deals in forgiveness and judgment. In Matthew, chapters 6 & 7 reveal that when we do not forgive, our heavenly Father is inhibited from forgiving us. It also reveals that when we judge others, the same rule or standard in which we judge others is the same rule or standard by which we shall be judge.
This means that if we lack grace and mercy when we judge a person or their situation, God is keeping an account of this and in one way or another we’ll find ourselves facing that same standard being used to judge us. In this, we lose. However, if we keep grace and mercy as our standard or rule by which we judge, we win.
We Forget Ourselves: Something to consider when we fail to show grace and mercy is that we fail to recall what Jesus says about considering the mote and the beam. He says, in essence, why are you worrying about the speck in someone else’s eye when there is a log in your own. A lack of grace and mercy blinds us to the reality that we have some great issues that are just as much an issue as what we are seeing as an issue for others.
How Others See Us: One of the problems (and there are several) of holding these heroes or fathers in the faith to such a high standard or being critical of them is that it diminishes or taints their accomplishments by not acknowledging that in spite of their humanness, they were inspired by God and used of God to contribute to the greater narrative of enhancing the Christian faith and community.
It also diminishes their image in the eyes of those who looked to them as inspiration. This idea that we should expose these heroes only serves to put a stumbling block in the way of believers who may themselves be facing struggles in their walk. It also weakens the testimony of these people, which in turn becomes a stumbling block for those who may have been drawn to the light that is in Christ through these servants of God. This notion that the Church needs to expose these heroes of faith in their weakness does nothing to bring glory to God or to strengthen the Body of Christ. Instead, it weakens the Body by crucifying these people and places us in the seat of judgment that belongs wholly to God.
It’s my hope that we as a Body of Believers can be instruments of grace and mercy towards both our heroes and fathers of the faith, of the past and present. I find that in the same way, when the hero image of a parent is lessened in the eyes of a child and it darkens the shine for them towards every other aspect of life, including faith; the same can be said of saint who are child-like in faith or young in their faith walk.
If those of us who are mature in faith cannot be protectors and stewards of the history and legacy of these heroes, we do the body as a whole a disservice. Let’s become more like Christ and exhibit the grace and mercy towards our heroes and fathers in faith, the same way we pray that Christ has shown us.
QUESTION: What are the things you recognize as a challenge when you or others in the faith do not show grace or mercy?