Grace is a slippery truth. In my faith tradition, I was taught to preach the gospel constantly to myself for exactly this reason. Our sin nature, the Devil’s wiles, and cultural scrupulosity conspire to make it easy for us to forget the gospel.

I’ve always thought it odd that we gospel people so easily fall prey to the false gospel of moralism. Sometimes moralism is directed at myself; sometimes it’s directed at others. In the wake of the right kind of mishap, I can spiral into self-doubt and self-accusation about my own pitiable nature. Yet just as quickly, I can start casting aspersions on those who’ve made similar mistakes. Only the grace of the gospel can pull me out of the pendulum swing.

We’re often tempted to apply grace abstractly, with a brush of the hand, a proverbial fig leaf over a deeper, darker problem. But Timothy King’s story of his struggle with opioid addiction (p. 34) shows how the shame King fought was alleviated by his deeper understanding of one aspect of the gospel: Yes, he is a sinner, but there is nothing he could do to erase the image of God in which he was created. This truth became concrete as his doctor, his mother, and his church made that grace real to him in the way they treated him in his addiction and recovery.

This is what’s known as the whole truth. It’s not about shifting blame. It’s about sharing one another’s burdens.

Mark Galli says this in another way in his editorial (p. 27). Church discipline (and discipleship) starts with sharing responsibility for one another in Christ. None of us can possibly bear the full weight of growing up in Christ, and sometimes, we have a hard time remembering even the most important truths when we need them.

As Wendy Alsup demonstrates (p. 54), that gospel is multi-faceted, full of a depth of riches for each of us. Jesus comes to alleviate the ravages of sin. However you look at it, none of us is more worthy than the other. There’s something going on here much bigger than moralism’s ethical scoreboard. For Christians, guilt lies on all of us, but it ought to drive none. There’s a reason, after all, Satan is known as the accuser and the deceiver. Shame is the lie that rings true to us all.

That’s why I’m grateful for those in my local church who go beyond preaching the gospel to themselves and preach it to me also. That old, familiar story about a Savior who was born of a virgin and died for my sins is more than the bedrock of my faith; it’s the sustaining force.

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