Have you ever used the expression “if these walls could talk”? Sometimes I think that the walls in a pastor’s office could tell the kinds of stories that make for great movies and best selling novels. They could tell beautiful stories of redemption and courage, where good people in bad situations overcome difficult odds. These are the kinds of stories where the Spirit’s presence is undeniable and God’s purposes revealed in new and significant ways. Still, there are thicker and darker moments that hold confessions of grief, envy and doubt. In those moments, people let go of secrets and dissonant emotions in wavering whispers.
The walls of my office are no different. While they could easily divulge about laughter and celebration, they could also tell a great deal about the hearts of the people that come through the door.
But of all of the things I’ve heard, there’s very little that has surprised me, and there’s been nothing beyond God’s forgiveness. There’s been no story, experience or admission that I could not turn to God’s grace to cover.
That’s the beauty of ministry. That’s the reason I love being a pastor. That’s the reason I can face the darkness and despair of our world morning after morning. It amazes me every day to know there is nothing outside of God’s reach. Even the most corrupt convict, those that we deem as inhuman, are not exempt from God’s forgiveness.
God frees even the most hopeless captive and releases even the most tightly chained prisoner. God’s grace knows no bounds. It transcends human limitations and is especially good news to the poor and the brokenhearted. In fact, it is meant to elevate the broken, underprivileged and oppressed people in our world (Luke 4:18).
It is as if God’s arms are outstretched, holding wide a colorful patchwork quilt, ready to embrace anyone who comes to be covered. God’s grace erases all of the boundary markers humans have drawn up, including social status, race and gender.
God’s grace is so unfathomably vast and generous, and yet, I meet people all of the time who believe only a few people are fit to proclaim it. They believe that God’s grace can cover any sin, no matter how offensive, but somehow it could be sinful for someone to teach if they are not the right gender.
This understanding forgets that God created humans, male and female, in God’s very image (Genesis 1:27). All humanity bears the image of God and has the responsibility of reflecting God’s image to the world. God does not limit his full reflection to a particular category of people.
When we receive God’s grace, the categories made up by other people go away. The status we were born into, the labels we’ve worn for decades and the roles defined by our culture are erased. We open ourselves up to be transformed and redefined as a child of God. In God’s family there is no Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28). Our previous identity along with our broken, sinful nature is washed away and our new identity is tied to the life of Christ. Our new identity is modeling Christ’s life in the world. This identity is the only one that matters. This identity calls each and every one of us to share the limitless grace of God to all people in all that we do.
First published on the Evangelical Covenant Church's Commission for Biblical Gender Equality Blog.