Christians want forgiveness. We want to be reconciled to God. Therefore, we want God to grant us grace, but we simultaneously seem to loathe granting grace to others. We are all too ready to stigmatize, categorize, and cast off those we hold in our view as sinners, as if our sins are minor in comparison.
When Pope Francis performed Holy Matrimony for twenty couples, including those who had been already living together, some people within the Church were furious. “But these people are living in sin!” Well, they were, but now they are married, and they are able to express their love, commitment, and bond as they like. Perhaps we could go so far to say as God intends for married people to do. Either way, they went from those living outside of grace to those who had been blessed to live within it. Is this not the transition Christ came to help us make in all of our lives? It breaks my heart in two to listen to people withhold grace, sanction people by playing gatekeeper to the most precious blessing God has given to us. During his earthly ministry, people approached Jesus and he forgave them, healing them both physically and spiritually. He reconciles all people to God through the blood of the cross, and yet we have the audacity to deny someone that grace, as if we could.
I do not excuse sin. I have certainly sinned myself, and I live with the consequences of that as well as living with the knowledge that my sin has hurt others. I have been hurt by the sins of other people, even to the point that one sin almost destroyed me completely, but by the grace of God, I was able to have victory over sin, including my own. In the liberation that follows accepting the grace wrought of Christ, I want others to discover this wholeness that comes from redemption. I want all people, even those who call me their enemy, to have this. It changed my life. It is changing me even now. It can change others, and so it would change the world. But if we hold grace hostage to our approval of others, then we truncate its transformative power and limit its reach. So there were couples “living in sin,” or more aptly put: having pre-marital sex, and Pope Francis offered them the means through which to move from that place to one of blessing, redemption, and grace. Good for him. Good for us. God reveals that God can redeem and transform all things, all people, and all circumstances. We should expect nothing less of an all-powerful and all loving God, and God should expect that we would do nothing less than model that to the fullest extent of our beings.
We all sin. We all stand in the need of grace. God offers grace to us all. If we are unwilling to turn around and offer that same grace to others, then we backslide into sin. Maybe it is now a different sin, but denying another the love and reconciliation Jesus died to give us is surly a sin. While there are people who think there are unforgivable sins and even unforgivable people, I whole heartedly believe Christ dispelled that in the Gospel accounts. God took one of the greatest enemies to Christianity, Saul, and transformed him through a profound encounter with the Risen Christ into one of the single greatest advocates Christianity has ever known, and perhaps will ever know. Granted grace for his persecution of the Church and his role in the death of Christ’s disciples, Saul became Paul, a man who would die spreading the Gospel of Christ to the ends of the known earth in his day. Such a radical receipt of grace gives us hope that we can be remade into the servants Christ deserves, heralding his triumphant return, and spreading his Gospel of grace, truth, and love to every living person. So look at the sinner who turns your stomach, and turn your heart towards them. Grant them grace, so that they can be free from their sin, and you too can find freedom from their sins. You have been freed from yours. Now go break the chains of those who remain captive to sin with the liberating power of God’s love.