Bill Cosby Should Expect Grace

The expectation of overflowing grace doesn't depend on its agents as much as its source.

Last Monday, The Associated Press obtained court documents from a 2005 deposition where Bill Cosby testified to giving sedatives to women for the purposes of having sex with them. Since the resurgence of rape allegations last year, Cosby has lost his agent and activists have called for the removal of his star from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the revocation of his Presidential Medal of Freedom award. And even though he has yet to admit that any of these drugs were given without consent, the tide of popular opinion seems to be turning on the Cos.

Scandals like these aren't uncommon, even within the church. Just a few weeks ago, Bill Graham's grandson, Tullian Tchividjian, admitted to having an affair and has subsequently resigned as the pastor of his church. While I may not know Tchividjian or anyone from his church, I can probably guess how folks are reacting. Over ten years ago, another church leader I know was also found to be having an affair. And the resulting fallout went beyond the number of members that left the church. There are people to this day who will leave a shopping cart full of groceries and walk out of the store if they see this person there.

That kind of behavior doesn't surprise me coming from the world. Stars rise and fall all the time with the winds of public fancy. What surprised me was the lack of grace within the church. And not how little was extended, but how little was expected.

When we think of grace as it relates to moral failure, we usually think of how we should apply it. Whether it be a cultural icon or a spiritual leader, we all tend to take it personally when these heroes of ours fail us. Any inspiration that they've brought into our lives is called into question, and we weep over having to choose between celebrating their good and condemning their bad or purging their tainted influence entirely.

Consequently, we sell grace short by shedding tears not for the victims or even the offenders, but for ourselves and our own myopia to seeing God's incomparable goodness. When Joseph was thrown in a pit and sold into slavery, all anyone could see was a single, isolated act of evil. No one could see God's plan to save his people let alone much of the known world through Joseph's administration in Egypt during the famine.

That's because grace primarily flows through human agency. However, when we focus more on how we extend grace, we become blind to the one who lavishly pours it out.

Just as grace exceeded sin (overflowing in the sacrifice of God's own son), so God works all things for the good of those who love him. But not in a making-the-best-of-a-bad-situation kind of way. As a child of divorce, I can testify to how God used it to create a closer relationship with my parents (including an extra parent), a determination to have a good marriage (which has contributed to a quite blissful one), and a better understanding of who he is.

In other words, when evil occurs, we shouldn't expect God's sloppy seconds; we should eagerly anticipate the relentless firstfruits of his grace.

This doesn't mean we dismiss the evil and the hurt or ignore justice. But we miss the good he accomplishes if we focus solely on the bad. And if he can use jealous brothers to save a nation, imagine what he can do with a fallen pastor. Or even a womanizing comedian.


Inspired by a conversation with Ashanti Pettaway and Hannah LaMaster on our podcast, What Did They Say Now? Listen to the episode here.

photo credit: winter via photopin (license)