Archive for April 29th, 2009

Driving to school yesterday, I heard a story on the news that sent my mind reeling.  Being that I am a little behind the times sometimes, you all may have heard about this book, but I believe it bears repeating.

Kevin Roose, author of The Unlikely Disciple:  A Sinner’s Semester at America’s Holiest University, posed as an evangelical at Liberty University for a semester as research for this book.  Karen Swallow Prior has written a good review of it at www.christianitytoday.com.  This is the final section:

Not surprisingly, Roose interprets much of the good he finds in his experience through the lens of pragmatism. He quotes William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience throughout the book as he tries to reconcile his increasing admiration for certain aspects of evangelicalism with his opposing political and social views. But even pragmatism can’t explain the most profound part of his experience.

I didn’t meet Roose until two years after his semester here, when he sat in my office for a friendly, hour-long chat on one of those “good days” of February in Lynchburg, just a few weeks before his book’s release. He still comes back to visit the friends he made here—and, on this trip, to talk about the book. Of all the unexpected events at Liberty, the one that most moves him, one included in the book but conveyed even more poignantly face-to-face, is the love his Liberty friends showed him when he finally revealed the truth about who he is and why he enrolled here. One of his roommates, he says, expressed their reaction best: “How could I not forgive you when I’ve been forgiven so much?” Roose shakes his head in disbelief, sitting in the chair next to mine. “I never expected the people here to apply the principles of their belief to their lives in such a real way.”

It is this sense of love, ultimately, that Roose can’t shake, even two years later. He found at Liberty a kind of community, he acknowledges, that has no parallel in the secular world. “I never thought,” Roose writes to the school in the book’s acknowledgements, “that the world’s largest evangelical university would feel like home … . But by experiencing your warmth, your vigorous generosity of spirit, and your deep complexity, I was ultimately convinced—not that you were right, necessarily, but that I was wrong.”

Roose’s life was changed for the better through his semester at Liberty. And hopefully, Liberty University will be changed for the better, too, through having seen itself through the eyes of a stranger—an angel of sorts, perhaps (as Roose intimates in the book’s epigraph), that we entertained unaware.

Yes, we watch our language around children, or we edit our actions if we are out with friends we know to be unbelievers.  But we never know who is watching.  And we never know when what we say or do will make an impact, good or bad, on the person standing nearest us.  Roose’s reaction to these students’ forgiveness and grace is the exact reason that Andy Stanley hit the nail on the head in a video I watched the other day.  He said, “Jesus did not dispense guilt.  He did not leverage guilt.  It is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance.”  (Romans 2:4)  One of the fruits of the spirit isn’t guilt.  Love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Not condemnation.  Not guilt.  Jesus, with the blood on his back and the scars on His body that made him unrecognizable, having nothing in His appearance that we would desire Him…yes, He alone has come in and cleaned out the closets of my heart.  I am skeleton-free, guilt-free, and righteous because of His sacrifice alone.  Andy Stanley says that it is the guilty people who deal in the currency of guilt.  Christ has freed me from guilt, therefore He has given me the freedom to deal in the currency of grace.  May we all be rich in the currency of grace to ALL people, at ALL times, for we never know who may be watching and listening…

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