Grace, Listening, Grace, Love, Grace, Patience…

There is a word in the Christian vocabulary that we really like on one hand, but also really struggle with. The word is grace. As we see the polarization of our communities right now over our differing responses to the virus and our differing responses to the protests and civil unrest, we can clearly see what happenswhen grace is missing from our culture. Yet, do we choose grace in how we live, react, and discuss the struggles of our day?

How does a Christian respond in times like these? Although no one has said anything to me personally, I feel some real pressure to respond to what is currently happening in our world and in the Christian community. Some of that pressure is coming from my place in the community as a leader. Some of that pressure is coming from our culture which says that if you don’t comment about current events, you must be on the “other” side of things. (and who wants to be on the ‘other’ side?) Some of that pressure is also coming from my heartfelt belief that Jesus has the answers for our current situation. His truth is not just reserved for the “spiritual” matters. His truth is clearly helpful and essential for the cultural and personal matters of our world.

16  All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God   may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

However, while feeling this pressure I believed that I should take time to consider what type of response is needed from me. We have heard from Christian leaders in cities that are currently being split apart by racial tension. I don’t just want to repeat them. We have heard from faithful believers who have seen or personally experienced unjust and unequal treatment by authorities in their communities. I cannot testify about what I have only rarely experienced. We have also heard from faithful believers who see that unjust treatment as an anomaly that needs to be addressed but not as a sign that the system is broken. I live in a small community with little crime – so I don’t have much experience with that. So, I asked myself, “What word does my community need from me right now? What need do I see that Jesus clearly addresses?”

6  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.

            Ephesians 5:6-8

This is what I see… I see people, good people, succumbing to the spirit of our age. I see people who should live by grace and mercy expressing themselves in judgment and labels. I see us dismissing the hurting and rushing to condemn those who express themselves differently than we do.

What do we need at a time like this? We need a renewed commitment to grace. We need a renewed commitment to listening. We need a renewed commitment to loving our neighbor in the same way we love ourselves. We need a renewed commitment to patience.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

            Matthew 5:43-45

We live in an age where people rush to judge. We live in an age where individuals are not heard for what they have said but are labeled by what they have not said. We live in an age of ‘gotcha’ discussions. In such an age, we are faced with two temptations. First, we are tempted to jump in with both feet and fight like everyone else does. Second, we are tempted to separate into camps and say, “But what about them?” every time someone like me encourages us to live better. There is a better way!

19  This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

            James 1:19-20

Christian, we don’t turn the other cheek, love our neighbor as ourselves, or choose kindness and compassion because it is easy or because we are weak. It is not capitulation to withhold judgment, listen, and think deeply before we respond. And it is not automatically wicked when someone disagrees with us about what solutions are needed in our communities. We turn the other cheek because our Master told us to. We love our neighbor both because of His command and because that is what we need back from our neighbor. We choose kindness and compassion because that is what God did for us. We take time, listen, and then respond in truth with love because we reject the knee-jerk and harsh spirit of our age.

3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. AND Ephesians 6:12 12 For we do not  wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the    heavenly places.

            2 Corinthians 10:3-4

This is the type of leader I will strive to be. A leader who listens. A leader who chooses kindness and compassion. A leader who speaks the truth as I understand it in love. I commit to not being rash, quick-tempered, or quick to judge. This is what we need in this age. No, it won’t be always liked or appreciated. I’m okay with that. I am not choosing this for popularity. I’m choosing it because this is the path of  thoughtfulness and love. My encouragement today: be this with me. Let us together be different in the world.

Something to think about,

Pastor John

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