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Opinion: Franklin Graham, You Missed An Opportunity With Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Opinion: Franklin Graham, You Missed An Opportunity With Mayor Pete Buttigieg

  • At What Point Will Church Leaders Embrace The Doctrine Of Grace?

Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist, Billy Graham, recently expressed some deeply personal views on Twitter concerning the sexuality of Democratic Presidential hopeful, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who just so happens to be gay and Christian. In a series of tweets, Graham questioned Buttigieg’s faith as a Christian, referenced homosexuality as “sin”, quoted biblical views about marriage and called on Mayor Buttigieg to repent. For many Christians, these are not new thoughts and reflect a great day’s work for a model evangelical like Franklin Graham. But for other Christians like myself, I found Graham’s words troubling because they lacked grace extended to all believers through Jesus Christ. Here are Graham’s exact words:

“Presidential candidate & South Bend Mayor @PeteButtigieg is right — God doesn’t have a political party. But God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by. God doesn’t change. His Word is the same yesterday, today & forever. Mayor Buttigieg says he’s a gay Christian. As a Christian I believe the Bible which defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised or politicized. The Bible says marriage is between a man & a woman — not two men, not two women. The core of the Christian faith is believing and following Jesus Christ, who God sent to be the Savior of the world — to save us from sin, to save us from hell, to save us from eternal damnation.” — Franklin Graham via Twitter

My question is this… at what point will our church leaders embrace the doctrine of grace? Now I know that’s a pretty bold question considering Mr. Graham’s heredity and credentials, but I’m of the belief that questions like this should be asked of leaders who are bold enough to question the validity of another person’s faith and their relationship with God. So, I wrestled with writing this article, but, there’s a passion within me that refuses to sit idly by to watch this ongoing pattern of ministers condemning and attempting to exclude people from having an authentic relationship with Christ. A relationship with Jesus is a very personal thing and should not be subject to someone else’s opinion or a limited understanding of God’s grace.

For Christians, grace is defined as the free gift of God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness for sin. Grace is God’s unmerited favor and spiritual healing offered through a relationship with Jesus Christ. Biblically, grace was extended to atone for one’s sins because mankind was not able to follow the law, otherwise known as the 613 commandments or rules (and you thought there were only 10) found in the Old Testament of the Bible. Those rules reflect the Old Covenant God made with His chosen people, the Israelites, who were required to follow these commandments to prevent the sinful acts of the rest of the world (anyone else who wasn’t Jewish) from infecting their culture.

These commandments (or laws), given to them through Moses, were intended to bring awareness or consciousness of what is “sin” in Gods eyes for His chosen people. It worked. This consciousness of sin brought about harsh penalties and judgments for breaking these rules. You should give the book of Leviticus a read and find how being disrespectful to your parents, eating shellfish or pork, adultery, divorce, and other common acts Americans commit every single day, including Christians, could literally require you or your kids to be stoned to death under the law. Animals had to be sacrificed to temporarily atone for their sins and the cycle would repeat itself year after year.

The bottom line is this — Mankind could not live up to the measure of what God defined as righteousness, creating a human dilemma. So, in His infinite wisdom, God made a NEW Covenant with mankind through Jesus Christ which freed everyone from the burden of the law and its penalty for sin. The only requirement to receive this New Covenant is your belief in Jesus and what he did on the cross.

What did Jesus do? I’m so glad you asked… Jesus, also known as Emmanuel (meaning God with us); God incarnate (meaning God in the flesh) allowed himself to be sacrificed once and for all to atone for the sins of all mankind — past, present, and future. On the cross, Jesus said “it is finished” and his fulfillment of the law under the Old Covenant finished over 2,000 years ago. Believers now live under a NEW and better Covenant that offers God’s grace and freedom from the law. Jesus declared us righteous before God.

John 1:14;16–17 AMP — 14 And the Word (Christ) became flesh, and lived among us; and we [actually] saw His glory, glory as belongs to the [One and] only begotten Son of the Father, [the Son who is truly unique, the only One of His kind, who is] full of grace and truth (absolutely free of deception); — 16 For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift]. 17 For the Law was given through Moses, but grace [the unearned, undeserved favor of God] and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Fast forward to today, in this time of grace and forgiveness of sins, the church and some church leaders are unfortunately stuck somewhere between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. They mix the covenants and preach sin instead of the “Good News” of God’s gift of grace to believers. The problem with this scenario is that this obsession over sin and behavior denies the finished work of Jesus Christ. Instead of grace, which is the antidote to sin, this preoccupation with “sin” puts the burden of righteousness back on our shoulders through individual works, behavior, and pursuit of perfection. That’s not belief in a finished work. Either Jesus died for our sins or he did not. The Old Testament proves that we cannot work to earn salvation because biblical history proves that men continually fell short of God’s standard under the 613 commandments and rules of the law.

Romans 6:14 (NLT)— Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.

I don’t know about you, but I refuse to continually fall from grace by believing my behavior has me saved today and condemned tomorrow. That’s not true salvation if the belief is that your behavior has more power than what Jesus did on the cross. The choice is clear… believe Jesus and receive grace or don’t believe and try to earn grace through your own human strength. I choose Jesus, because if I was still under the law, I would not be alive to write this. Under the Old Covenant, if you are guilty at one point of the law, you are guilty of all of it. There’s no easy path to salvation under the Old Covenant because everyone is born with a sin nature. Jesus was the only living being on Earth who was able to follow the law. The rest of us needed a savior!

James 2:10 (NIV) — For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.

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Christians struggle with grace because it’s hard to fathom a God, who loves us so much, that He was willing to forgive our sins in exchange for our belief in what He has already done for us through Jesus. That’s the gospel plain and simple. Belief based on what Christ has done, versus belief in your behavior or efforts laboring to obtain God’s forgiveness and grace. It is a gift to be freely received. If you believe it, you have received it. Period. Christ’s work is finished. New Covenant faith is not so much about sin, it’s about belief in what Jesus has done once and for all to atone for our sin.

Hebrews 9:28 (NLT) — so also Christ was offered once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

So, Mr. Graham, it is true that — “God does have commandments, laws & standards He gives us to live by”. However, those commandments, laws and standards “to live by” are found under the Old Covenant. Those who choose Christ are no longer under the requirements of the law found in the Old Covenant. They have the freedom and salvation extended through God’s grace for eternity. The battle over sin has been won and Jesus is not coming again to deal with our sins. He did that already on the cross. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to make people aware of the “Good News” of God’s grace. Not to keep them enslaved over sin.

Which covenant will you choose to live under?

As for Mr. Buttigieg’s status as a “gay” Christian, his repentance, alleged “sin” or even his marriage, regardless of whether we agree with his life or not, that’s between him and his God. I think Jesus said it best:

John 21:22 (AMP) — Jesus said to him, “If I want him to stay alive until I come [again], what is that to you? You follow Me!”

I’ll be continuing this dialog in future posts and a forthcoming book release. I know this is a lot of complex information to share in such a short space. But it’s time for believers to start living more abundant lives versus lives filled with fear of condemnation and judgment. We live in a world filled with people hungering to receive love.

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