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Recently, I’ve been thinking once again about Christianity and grace.

When I attended a church years ago, one or two of the members CONTINUOUSLY criticized the pastor. Each and every time I was in their presence, some comment would be made.

Years ago I’ve seen how a member of the clergy wouldn’t bother to be in dialogue with others because they had all of the right answers and everyone else who disagreed was “wrong.”

Hail church… full of hate…

I see Christians noting in online forums that people who are out of work or disabled should be denied assistance.

I see Christians who refuse to have conversations with others who think differently.

I see Christians who constantly make little judging comments about pastors, their fellow congregants and others they know.

We judge those who get pregnant before they’re married, who are single parents or have abortions. We judge those who are atheists or some other religious minority because they don’t have the “truth.”

I’m not just speaking about the Westboro Baptists or other fundamentalist Christians. We liberal and Mainline Protestants can be just as critical and grace-less as those on the right.

Why do we think our churches and Christianity will grow if we’ve left out grace from the equation?

Christianity was founded on the principles of grace. Some believed Jesus died for their salvation. Other Christians believe that Jesus lived as God’s unconditional love incarnate. Jesus touched the unclean, defended the poor and hung out with outcasts. No matter what your view of salvation, abundant grace is a part of our story as Christians. Except, we’ve forgotten that.

Dear Christians: we lack grace. We ALL lack grace.

Christianity has completely and totally lost it’s core principle. Judgment of non-Christians and other Christians has pushed aside any unconditional love.

Instead of standing up for the unprivileged, Christians defend the words of a duck guy who denigrates gay people and laughs off racism. And the rest of us Christians who didn’t defend the guy get upset when he gets a second chance to return to a television show. (Granted, he didn’t apologize for his insensitive remarks. Maybe I would warm up to the idea of a second chance if he had been slightly more sensitive and grace-filled. But like ALL of you, I judge too.)

I laugh when I hear Christians who say it’s more important to make sure they judge people because it’s “loving” rather than showing them grace through their roughest moments.

And no one really knows the crud that we all go through in life. No one knows how our embedded theology and life experiences influence our choices. We forget that someone else’s shoes fit so very differently. But we’re not willing to try them on. We’re not willing to consider how they feel on someone else’s feet. We just don’t care – because Jesus died for “me.” Jesus cares about “me” and that’s all that matters, right?

It’s attitudes like this that make people turn their backs on God, Jesus and the church. How many people will Christianity lose this year because grace, mercy and unconditional love wasn’t extended to our neighbors? We are engaging in anti-evangelism as we suck the world dry of the good news of grace, mercy and unconditional love.

Friends: it’s time we embrace grace, love and second chances. Very rarely does a mistake cause us to have such a deep riff between ourselves and others or ourselves and God. Yet we want to find every opportunity to make sure grace is never, ever a part of Christianity. Maybe we believe we’re the only ones who deserve grace. Maybe we think people will get used to having it easy.

And by the way – whether you are a Christian or not, you will mess up. We’re all going to make mistakes. We’re all going to live in ways that will make someone else greatly dislike us. So deal with it. Life, health issues, time restraints often push us off of our paths and cause us to make mistakes. That is life. As Christians, it’s our job to try and find ways to relocate people back on the paved road instead of making them struggle in the weeds and ditches off the path.

So next time you’re about to judge, ask these questions: “Why did they act this way? Is there anything I can do to help? If not, how can I better understand them?”

That’s sharing the good news.