Grace is something every person needs at some point in life. It enables us to approach God as our Father to seek forgiveness we can’t earn. Grace empowers us from weakness and delivers us from our temptations. Once we encounter grace, it transforms our desires, motivations and behavior and brings us to a pivotal moment where we become compelled to extend grace to those around us.
A story of grace unfolds in our Messy Grace series when we meet a young man named Michael Salinas. In a public confession, Michael shares his experience living as a young Christian who has struggled with same sex attraction. A beautiful illustration of grace emerges from this tension when Michael’s mother, Deborah Salinas, publishes her response to Michael's confession.
You would think that a coming out confession would be an occasion that would flex the bonds of love to their breaking point. Instead, Deborah offered a transparent response that demonstrates our call as Christians to extend love, support and accountability to those around us, just as God bestowed grace and mercy through his Son.
Deborah shared, “My son struggles with same-sex attraction. The first time he ever spoke to me about his feelings, it was like a dagger went through my heart and my intestines were being ripped open. I was physically ill and it was one of the saddest moments in my life. My dreams for what I imagined his life to be were fading away.”
Deborah was able to see that Michael’s need for grace was no different from her own. Realizing her own need for grace, she admitted, “I’m a sinner too, mine is not same sex attraction, adultery or what one would categorize as taboo, but I sin nonetheless and it is just as ugly so it’s the same…sin is being far from God, His Son and the Holy Spirit.”
In an era when some children are thrown out of their home or disowned by their family, Deborah demonstrated a deep love and concern for her son’s salvation through a commitment to pray for Michael daily. She admitted that she felt heartache knowing Michael was tempted by sin, but found comfort by having confidence in God's promise that “one day he will be triumphant and be made whole.”
Having a solid understanding of God’s grace has allowed Deborah to see sin for exactly what it is. Years ago, during her own pursuit to understand grace, she asked her spiritual mentor why Jesus had to die from such a brutal death. Her spiritual mentor explained that, “sin is just exactly that - so brutal, so horrible, so repulsive, so painful. It took Christ’s blood, pure and holy, the only source to wash our transgressions away and redeem us!”
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, Paul shares, "He Who knew no sin became sin." Knowing that Jesus trusted God, even in the midst of grueling and callous pain, makes it easier for us to trust God's plan in the midst of our struggles. 2 Timothy 1:9 tells us that God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because his plan from the beginning of time was to show us his grace through Jesus Christ. This means you have received grace regardless of anything you have done, will do, or can do.
Many believers feel the Church has failed to help bear one another's burdens. Michael's struggle with same sex attraction only increased because he didn't feel he could be open and honest about his sin with those around him. He admitted his lack of trust by saying, "I was ready to turn my back on Him, the church, and everything I had ever known. All because I could not be transparent." Michael concluded by stating the truth. He said, "our identity is in Christ Jesus. We are one in Him. Comfort one another."
We can’t extend grace to others unless we are aware of our need for grace first. Without this understanding, we simply adjust our behavior so our outward appearance looks to be in line with the standards we are expected to live by. What matters isn't our outer appearance but our inner disposition. The standards of religion aren’t enough to influence us to change from within. Religion can alter our behavior, but not our heart.
Though we often struggle to understand, it’s very simple. By grace we have been saved through our faith in Jesus. This is a gift of God. We are to work together to encourage each other not to take his gift for granted. It's our responsibility to share God’s gift with those around us in the hopes of pointing them to the cross.
“Then use that gift to keep heart and life grounded in and responsive to the grace of God, “that brings salvation … to all men.” (Titus 2:11).