Grace for Francis Chan. Forgiveness, not quite yet. And that is okay for now.

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In my life, I’ve heard a million different descriptions about the nature of grace. I’ve heard it referred to as unearned love, like a fat tip for the server. I’ve read Brennan Manning who described it as being “seized by the power of great affection.” And the other night I finished Anne Lamott’s book, Traveling Mercies, and she said:

 

I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.

 

The other night I found grace at the door of my anger.

 

It was my birthday night and I was in an argument with my brother over Francis Chan. A really bad argument. My brother is a pastor and I tend to lug all my spiritual baggage to his feet, perhaps unfairly, hoping he’ll help me sort it all out, maybe empathize with me, expecting him to try his best to not do that Devil’s Advocate crap he does.

 

But when I told him just how furious I was with Francis, that’s exactly what he did.

 

The whole thing started as a small crack in the heart, as it always does. After I watched the youtube video, I tried thinking of plausible reasons for why my beloved Francis would do what he did and I urged myself to not get angry- because it’s not anything personal or intentional. It’s not as if he saw my heart laying there when he stepped on it.

 

But it hurt. And it did feel personal and intentional. I did feel wronged.

 

Here’s-What-Happened:

 

I just found out that Chan went and spoke at the International House of Prayer, IHOP as it’s commonly called. It’s a place that has a reputation for cult-like behavior, uncontrollable charismatics, and where anyone can promote themselves to God’s PR person as long as they say, “God told me this ___, in a vision, just now.”

 

IHOP is run by a man named Mike Bickle. Mike Bickle thinks Oprah is the harbinger of the AntiChrist and he also really, really doesn’t like gay people. In an interview once, he noted our departure into the “demonic realm” where the demons like to touch us. He said gay marriage is a missile rocketing straight from the pit of hell.

 

And so imagine the inner stab of betrayal I felt when Francis stood on his stage and gave the most syrupy vow of undying love for Mike Bickle. Over and over, gushingly, he said it. It wasn’t enough to attend the controversial conference, he had to embrace my enemy in the most over-the-top way.

 

I am supposed to be about forgiveness, I know that. Christians are required to forgive friends and enemies as well as once-beloved authors. But even if I wanted to, which I don’t, I’m not sure I could forgive Francis Chan. I am not nearly there. Not now anyway.

 

Having said that, I’ve also been reading Anne Lamott and I’ve been learning about the balm of grace. About the poison of bitterness. About why I need to learn to calm and nurture my choleric heart.

 

I can’t do forgiveness with Chan, not genuinely, but I can let grace come in because it comes in gently. It takes me by the hand and walks me back aways, with time, through thoughts and conversation until I can quietly see the panoramic picture. After I declared Chan blacklisted from my private Christian collection of books and wisdom, my brother pointed out that Chan, besides budding up a romance with an Ass-Hat, has also rescued many of the homeless in San Francisco, and he’s distanced himself from the Mega-Church industry. He wrote a book once that gave me a glimmer of hope that God might possibly love me.

 

But I am not a side issue to the homeless, I snapped. Neither are they to you, he replied.

 

Grace.

 

Grace is good for me and I feel it. I feel it fine-tuning things in my heart. Softening me up, little by little, one adjustment in perspective at a time, pulling me to a place where I can truly forgive not just Chan, but many in the faith that have hurt me like this. Maybe even, one day, because anything is possible, I could find it in me to forgive Mike Bickle.

 

And I’m starting to understand that we are all sort of in the same boat in striving for goodness. Chan hurting me, even unintentionally, does not make him lower than me. Me getting angry and incapable of forgiveness does not make me lower than him. We’re standing on the same ground, still, always. Even when we think we are kinder, holier, better people, it’s all merely delusion. We haven’t gained a foot on the other person. Grace keeps us down like gravity. Lifts us up like equality.

 

As Phillip Yancey once wrote:

“Thunderously, inarguably, the Sermon on the Mount proves that before God we all stand on level ground: murderers and temper-throwers, adulterers and lusters, thieves and coveters. We are all desperate, and that is in fact the only state appropriate to a human being who wants to know God. Having fallen from the absolute Ideal, we have nowhere to land but in the safety net of absolute grace.”

 

We stand on a ground flattened by grace. And grace lifts us. And grace tends to us. And it points us the way forward, the too-long path of forgiveness, and given the space to breathe a bit, we all will make our way there. Some stomping, some skipping and some dragging their feet. No way better than the other.

  • http://upsidedowngrace.com/ Carol Vinson

    “…but I can let grace come in because it comes in gently. It takes me by the hand and walks me back aways, with time, through thoughts and conversation until I can quietly see the panoramic picture.”

    I absolutely love this! What a beautiful look at the journey to forgiveness.

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Thank you Carol!

  • Greg Rowles

    “We stand on a ground flattened by grace. And grace lifts us. And grace
    tends to us. And it points us the way forward, the too-long path of
    forgiveness, and given the space to breathe a bit, we all will make our
    way there. Some stomping, some skipping and some dragging their feet. No
    way better than the other.” This is excellent and truly helpful if I may quote it?

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Yep, just be sure to link back to the blog! Thank you Greg!

  • Sheila Warner

    This post has me in tears. I identify with what you said so strongly. For it seems to me, just when I think I am making progress in living out the love of Jesus, someone or something happens and that old enemy, my temper, flares. It is, as you say, grace. Grace reminds me that I have to step away and think about how I am reacting. The anger feels so good in the moment, but it really only hurts me. i have to remember that my word for 2014 is “safe”. My words and actions must be a safe place for others. Grace involves a loving God who puts spiritual IEDs into our path so that we can see where we need to make an adjustment in our journey through life. Yes, we are all in the same boat, all in need of grace. It’s so much better to be a vessel of grace than to be filled with bitterness. Thanks for this!

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      Beautiful thoughts Sheila, thank you for saying that! I am trying, everyday, to be a vessel for grace and I am learning how hard that truly is!

  • http://1t412.wordpress.com/ Christina

    <3 Grace is a hard thing to learn, but so good! And I love the Philip Yancey quote. What book is it from?

    • http://www.registeredrunaway.com/ Benjamin Moberg

      It’s from the The Jesus I Never Knew. LOVE that quote, and all of yancey’s books.

  • Aidan Bird

    When I first read the acronym of IHOP, I immediately thought of that restaurant chain called International House of Pancakes. I then couldn’t get the image of people eating pancakes as dudes preached out of my head. By the by, the restaurant IHOP is pretty delicious, though it’s hard to find one that does gluten-free pancakes.

    Also, this post reminded me of this post on slactivist: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2014/01/27/international-house-of-pride-beware-of-gods-special-apostles-who-bring-the-prophetic-word-from-god-that-they-are-apostles-and-that-they-are-special/

    Although I’ve heard of that International House of Prayer before, I’ve often wondered if they are the wolves in sheep’s clothing that Jesus warned us about. How they preach of the “end times” is worrisome for it’s often filled with such hatred and destruction, and I can’t see how praying about that again and again can lead to anything good. Prayer is an act of becoming, but if you pray for the end times, are you not putting that destructive doctrine into your heart? I find it hard to see how that can be full of grace or love at all. It also leaves me wondering the question: If you’re praying so hard for the end times and for the ‘true Christians’ to be beamed up to heaven by Christ, then how can you live your life? Are you not in a perpetual state of waiting and condemning others who you view to not be true Christians? Also, why would God be so merciless to beam up only true Christians and let everyone else burn and die miserable and terrifying deaths? I refuse to believe God is that heartless, and so I find end times doctrine to be mortifying and lacking in love.

    Also: there is nothing wrong with calling out those who do something wrong and painful against another person; sometimes this is needed otherwise the person may not realize their actions are causing harm. Anger isn’t a bad emotion per se — it’s how we deal with it and direct it as to whether it can turn into a bad emotion or not. Anger can blind just as much as it can temper our determination to speak the truth. So yes, grace helps lead us in the direction that brings about the most good. But I also don’t see it as the same thing as forgiveness either; that’s a whole separate issue. Grace may lay the groundwork for forgiveness to happen, but then forgiveness is not something you give another person either. You do it for yourself — not the other person — and you do it so you can release the painful and sour emotions. Forgiveness doesn’t absolve the other person of their wrong-doing either — that’s not something any of us can give another person — only God can do that.

    Anyway, those are the thoughts your post elicited. How are you feeling today? I can definitely understand why you felt so upset. Take care of yourself, for healing from this is important too.

    • Kate Green

      “Prayer is an act of becoming” – love this! and this: “Forgiveness doesn’t absolve the other person of their wrong-doing either — that’s not something any of us can give another person — only God can do that.”

      Such good thoughts… I’ve been thinking about this post a lot and your comments, Aidan, are good to throw into the mix of the ideas about grace and forgiveness swirling about in my mind (and heart).

      • Aidan Bird

        I first learned that at a young age, mentioned in one of the homilies at Mass; the Irish priest — I forget his name now – was known for short and to the point homilies. He’d lean against the podium, and talk with us as if he was speaking to each of us personally. That day one of the readings was about the pharisee that prayed and fasted so that others could see him and know that he did it. The Irish priest looked out at all of us and said, “Prayer is an act of becoming.” He then painted a bleak picture of the pharisee, and how his prayers were so focused on himself and being noticed, that the pharisee became bitter; his prayers became less about God and more about self-affirmation. I think there was a lot more to it, but I was young at the time, and that’s what I took out of it. Because of that, I was really careful about praying for good things, for love, for acceptance, for healing. And if I couldn’t bring myself to say the prayers for those, then I wouldn’t pray at all.

        I’ve noticed it in other places in Christian circles — and not just in my Catholic heritage. Slacktivist, a favorite Christian journalist of mine, also used the phrase. I’ve also heard it say in other religions such as Islam, Buddhism.

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  • Betsy Henning

    Hmmm? I didn’t know about the Francis Chan/Mike Bickle connection. Kind of hurts my heart. Good post. It illustrates Rachel Held Evans message at the GCN conference on grace. Particularly her thoughts on what is so annoying about it. Yep, God’s grace covers Bickle too. And I’m supposed to be delighted about that. Not yet. Give me time. (And you, Benjamin? Go ahead, take your time.)

  • Nancy Le

    this is beautiful >>>>>Grace keeps us down like gravity. Lifts us up like equality.

  • Darren Sterling

    Seems we tend to read the same books Ben. Lamott and Manning.
    Can I ask your age?
    You write with such insight, grace and live, It seems you are older and wiser than that you would expect from someone who I think is quite young?

  • Micalla Davis

    I am right there with you – not an IHOP fan! I live in Kansas City, and let’s just say I have had MANY negative/weird experiences with those who associate themselves as apart of the IHOP community. I think the concept was meant well, I mean prayer is a great thing, however due to some “extremes,” I think it is a very dangerous place – AND it causes a bad/weird/strange view on “Christians” to anyone that encounters them.

    Anyway, all this to say, I clearly am not a Mike Bickle fan. It saddens me how much the people of IHOP seem to follow HIM more than Jesus. So I’m right there with you – hard to forgive someone who has done a lot of harm. AND I will just say this – perhaps Francis Chan likes Mike Bickle as a friend/professional colleague? You could also toss in the cliche “brother in Christ” too. Now, again, if I am totally missing something that Chan said directly agreeing with Mike Bickle’s extreme stance on homosexuality (or the like), my whole point may be invalid, and I’d be in the same boat as you – disappointed and hurt, but just because someone is friends with or “gushes” about another person, doesn’t necessarily mean that they love and “gush” about all their beliefs. Does that make sense?

    I, in no way, am trying to “reprimand” you, but rather maybe bring some light to an author/speaker/pastor that you used to admire and love and probably “gush” about. Maybe he DOESN’T agree with Bickle on that topic? To be honest, I don’t know a ton about Francis Chan (I haven’t read any of his books or watched him teach), but I KNOW that he is doing great things, and what I hear about him, I like…at least so far.

    Again, I might be way off, so I apologize if so! I guess this made me think about how I have friends that I love and would gush, AND there are some areas of their life that either bug me and/or I don’t agree with. One of my best friends and I disagree on some “major” things, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love our friendship. Now of course, myself and my friend are not in major influential position, so it’s a much lesser effect. Just sounds like you had a “friendship” with Francis (or maybe I’m super weird by calling my favorite authors/bloggers by their first name, as if I’m their BFF? ;) and I’d hate to see you completely lose that “friendship” with him, because he happens to be friends ship with a very controversial man. Does that make sense? :) AND if I *was* completely off, I find it absolutely necessary sometimes to go separate ways. Some friendships can be harmful after a situation like this occurs.

    Okay, sorry for the novel! Anyway, I think you are great, and I am looking forward to reading more from you! I am a new reader, and find everything you write so though provoking and solid. I came across your blog through a trail of links concerning the news of WV, and so glad I did!

    • Lisa Workman Wachtl

      Thank you Micalla. Much insight. I am especially interested in the news of WV?? Can you provide more information?? Thank you.

  • http://www.liverenewed.com/ Emily @ Live Renewed

    This: “We’re standing on the same ground, still, always. Even when we think we are kinder, holier, better people, it’s all merely delusion. We haven’t gained a foot on the other person. Grace keeps us down like gravity. Lifts us up like equality.” Is one of the most beautiful and profound and true things I have read in a long time. Literally stopped me in my tracks and I involuntarily said, Wow! So thank you for that.

  • Ken Bagwell

    Maybe Chan is right and YOU are the one deceived?

  • Sarah H

    Another great book to read about grace is “Tattoos of the Heart” by Gregory Boyle. Like Anne Lamott, this book blew me away!

  • Rebecca

    I love your writing! It is helping me to continue to look deep into myself, Jesus and into Scripture. My views have changed A LOT and your writing assists me to continue in understanding and defining and changing. Thank you for writing from your heart and helping me turn toward grace as well.

  • Jolmes

    Did anyone take the time to think that maybe homosexuality is a sin?
    Romans 1, 1 Cor. 6, 1 Tim 1

  • Chrys Jones

    Did you listen to the whole sermon?