Sunday, 25 August 2013

The Promiscuous Nature of Grace: The COZA Scandal

Update, Dec. 30, 2014: This post is no longer reflective of my thoughts on this issue. I have a better understanding of how abuse should be handled in Christian settings, and I apologise for the complete derailment that this post contains. I however don't feel it is honest to take it down, so I won't, on principle. 

Pretty much every Nigerian in cyber-space has heard of the Ese Walter/Biodun Fatoyimbo debacle. Many waited to hear/see what the popular pastor's response would be, and many, myself inclusive, were disappointed with what appeared to be silent ratification by the church of his behavior, because things went on as usual. He preached this morning. And neither confirmed nor denied the allegations.
We cried foul. I cried foul.
Then I got a lesson. In grace.

'I will show you levels of grace you don't understand.' 

I am not a theologian, but I have a few (potentially controversial) thoughts to share, based on this lesson that I received.

1. God does not pander to the human sense of justice (because it is flawed).
Most people want to see Pastor Biodun  either vindicated or punished, depending on his guilt. That is not on God's agenda at all. What God wants is what advances the gospel, not what makes us feel angry or pacified. At the end of the day, the opinion of the multitude is irrelevant to God's agenda because the multitude is rarely Godly.
God deals with us all on a personal basis. Let me show you.
The Woman Caught in Adultery.
The crowd wanted justice. 'Stone her!' (Also the crowd wanted to catch Jesus in a violation of Mosaic law, but that's another story).
What she did was wrong; unlike Pastor Biodun, she was caught in the act. Naked. Standing before a screaming, bloodthirsty mob, guilty as sin.
Jesus' first reaction? Silence. He did not respond to the crowd. The crowd was enraged, but they did not believe in him. Bringing her to be judged by him was an act of rebellion: 'We have always doubted your divinity, now we will use this adulterer to catch you in a misstep.'
How many gleeful church-bashers got a kick out of this scandal? The most popular reaction was 'Ehen! I knew these Pentecostal pastors were all self-seeking hypocrites!'
God is under no obligation to address people who hate him.
'..Let them that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.The Lord knoweth those that are his..'

His next reaction?
'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'
God does not deal with us as a multitude. In the dispensation of grace, God handles our sins as individuals. Jesus pointed the crowd's spotlight at their own hearts, and based on their own sins, they could no longer stand in judgment over another.
We clamor for justice based on the (definite possibility) that Pastor Biodun has committed a sin. By so doing, we are indirectly calling for the same treatment of our sins. Asking God for justice is not wrong in itself, but can we ask for the same treatment for ourselves? If we are honest with ourselves, our personal wrongdoing becomes the bigger priority than the sins of another man, no matter how grievous or scandalous.
What do you care of another man's standing with God when your own is precarious?
Then, 'woman, where are you accusers?'
In light of your personal sins, hidden and forgiven alike, can you stand in judgment over another man? If you have not confessed them, they will convict you. If you have, they will remind you that your righteousness is simply a function of the same grace that has been so mocked in the last couple of days.

2. 'Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God (alone!) forbid!'
Grace is God saying 'I have factored in your past, present and future, and I will always relate with you from the perspective of the possibilities of your future.'
Man says 'look at his past! look at his present!' And God replies, 'I'm looking at his future.' The present and past have been resolved by the death of Christ on the cross; as long as a man has a future, he is entitled to grace. That is why God's judgment comes after you have died. God's judgment and his mercy are two sides of the same coin, so insist on divine judgment, and you are by default insisting on God's mercy.
You can scream and shout about a man being a sinner. But God's grace is infinite to the living.
'The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning, great is his faithfulness.'
Look at Sodom and Gomorrah. God and Abraham, judgment and mercy.
'If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray, and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and heal their land.'

Grace cannot exist outside the context of sin. After Jesus sent away the multitude to deal with their own individual issues, he dealt with the adulterous woman's sin. She had sinned, there was no question of it, and the wages of sin is still death. But the gift of God is still eternal life, and Jesus knew he would die for her and pay for her sins, so he was the only one qualified to judge her, and in the process, give her a chance at eternal life. So he said 'Woman, where are your accusers? Do they not condemn you? Even so, I do not condemn you. Go and sin no more.'

3. God does not owe the public an explanation.
The kingdom of God is not a democracy; it is a theocracy. There is only one King of Kings, and his word is final. Children of God are kings on the Earth, and the King of Kings will never subject his kings to the judgment of sons of men. This is a hard truth, but it is the truth. It is God's truth.
God was not elected into office. To what electorate then does he owe anything? David and Bathsheba are a favorite line of defense when issues like this come up. And my question is, at what point did David apologise to Israel? To his army? To anyone other than God Himself? God sent a prophet to convict David, not a screaming mob of irate Israelites. The truth of the matter is, guilty or not, we may never hear anything of what Pastor Biodun does about this situation. And this is because he came to Christ as an individual, and his relationship with God is personal. He owes us nothing.
Someone might say 'but he has caused other men to sin!' because there will be people who will leave the church, people who will take the stance of 'if pastor can do it, so can I.' But the honest truth is others influence our choices, yes, but our choices remain ours. And that is the basis upon which God will judge each and every one of us; as single, independent agents who exercised free will. If Ese herself could come to a deeper knowledge of God because of this experience, who are you then to say it has caused you to sin?

Am I sanctioning Pastor Biodun's behavior? Far from it. I am just sharing what I understand to be the position of God. Ese Walter shared that the episode caused her to find God's truth personally. What that means is if she were to stand before God in judgment, she would not be a slut, she would not be an attention-seeker, she would be a child of God, your opinion notwithstanding. If Pastor Biodun is not guilty of this offence, He remains a child of God. If he is guilty and he repents and avails himself of the grace of God, he is restored as a child of God.
The only other person in this equation is you, standing in judgment over these children of God. What footing are you standing on? Both Ese and Pastor Biodun can take advantage of the shameless, annoying (to those seeking 'justice'), all-inclusive grace of God. But can you? Are you a child of God?
That is the only question that really matters.