A decade in youth ministry gave me a front row seat to a lot of messy lives.
Abortion, drug use, broken families, teen pregnancy, and lots of drama.
Youth ministry was messy.
It wasn’t messy lives that really bothered me though. I expected that. I knew that was the life of a youth pastor long before I took the job.
One thing that really hurt I didn’t expect. In fact, I was a part of the pain and didn’t even see it at first.
This one thing that hurt me most is something I call Conditional Grace.
Conditional Grace, or selective kindness, we could even call it discriminatory love. It’s when a person offers love, kindness, and grace to certain people and not to others.
Let me give an example.
When I served in youth ministry a long-term core family member in our church could have a child that struggled with something like a drug addiction, we would bend over backwards to help them out. That’s great. I have no problem with that. Yet when students that weren’t part of the “core” families came to the church with tough issues, often less severe, they were dangerous and I was expected to “protect the flock” from them.
Wait… when it’s someone in our inner circle of kids that smokes weed at a youth camp we offer grace and want to help him through this difficult season, but when a student visitor smokes a cigarette outside the church before our youth services start we have to kick him out? Oh, the incredible conditional grace!
We all want to help SOME people, show them grace, as long as we like them. Can you see it? We want to help people we WANT to like, not those we don’t want to like. We give them the benefit of the doubt, we forgive the annoying things they do and put up with their difficult “seasons” in life. I fully agree with grace! We just need to make sure it isn’t so conditional.
Remember, while we were enemies of God, Jesus came to us (Romans 5). He came while we were alienated from God and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds (Col. 1:15-21).
I challenge you to show grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Show grace to someone who you don’t want to show grace to.
Go love the poor, people from the other political party, immigrants, those who struggle with sexual identity, the uneducated, or even someone from another religion. They also need the truth of Jesus Christ given through loving, gracious hands. Let them see the good in you and know it’s because of what Jesus did.
Want more? Check out this sermon!