PHILADELPHIA – The gospel is one of love and grace, and God is in the business of loving people back to life, said Christian activist, bestselling author and a leader of the New Monasticism movement Shane Claiborne reminded his audience Saturday at The Justice Conference. If Christians recover the centrality of grace, Claiborne is hopeful that the death penalty will be abolished and gun shops will be shut down.
He used the examples of King David and Saul (Paul before he became a follower of Jesus Christ) from scripture to illustrate the power of grace. David already had seven wives when he used deception to murder Bathsheba's husband. Yet, even David was not beyond redemption, Claiborne noted. "Even if you have seven wives and try to kill someone, the Bible is good news."
"Saul was by every definition a terrorist," he added, pointing to Saul's success at killing Christians. "If we believe terrorists are beyond redemption, we should rip out half the New Testament because it was written by one. This is the gospel of grace."
If Christians recover a biblical understanding of grace, Claiborne is hopeful that the death penalty will be abolished in a generation. "Could you imagine," he said, if Christians had an "execution alert" every time the death penalty was about to be used and "a bunch of Christians showed up and said, 'we don't believe in this, we believe in the gospel of love and grace.'"
Claiborne, who is co-founder of The Simple Way, a faith community in Philadelphia, also told the story of a 19-year-old that was shot and killed in Philadelphia. Christian groups set up vigils outside gun shops after the killing. The vigils eventually led to sit-ins in which several of the protestors were arrested. During their trial, Claiborne explained, "the gun shop went on trial," the owners license was revoked and the protestors were found not guilty.
The crowd applauded as Claiborne declared, "the gun shop is no more."
The applause and Claiborne's voice built to a crescendo as he preached, "we believe in redemption and even the gun shop owner is not beyond redemption. Amen?"
He then warned his audience of self-righteousness, which can "infect us" and "poison our soul." "It can make us think that we are the pure ones," unlike "all those other people that don't care about justice."
Claiborne is a Christian activist, bestselling author, speaker and co-founder of The Simple Way, a faith community in Philadelphia.