Grace In These Times

In my last letter to Good Sam friends I mentioned reading as one of my likes.

All sorts of books. Those that pertain to life today, and, as related to history. Norm and I are not big on social media. We do not subscribe to Facebook or Twitter. In these times of instant or rapid responses and firing off of comments, I feel protected that we aren’t dealing with passions and convictions on social media. So, we read and discuss and discuss some more.

During these days and months of seeing the emotional upheaval in our country and having to focus on critical decisions as American citizens, I’ve been thinking and trying to put together a thought on how we are to live into our New Kingdom life as brothers and sisters in Christ.

My question is: how is the gospel relevant right now in these times? My thoughts are not centered on campaigns, elections, not even the candidates, important as they are.

Rather, how does the gospel inform the way we think, how do we measure the words of Jesus in these times? And, what would we say to one another if Jesus were present in the flesh in the 21st century? How would Jesus participate in conversation and act in this situation where division is prevalent and ideas escalate to raw emotions and one or more lose perspective in the discussion?

Currently, I am reading the true story of a retired Navy Seal who was shot in Afghanistan. He talks throughout his story about the necessity of keeping cool in adversity, especially, keeping calm so that we will not go blindly into a dead-end called rage. It seems that in today’s broadcasting of current events, the greater the outrage, the more coverage, the greater the elevation of emotions. We seem to be measuring our moral purpose from political leaders or activism. That just isn’t how it must be for believers.

This is not the way of Jesus. Jesus was disciplined, and sure-footed, confident of his place in the world he came to save and bring into the loving fold of God. The gospel lessons have been given to us so that our perspective in life and living is radically different and life changing.

As members of the New Kingdom in Christ Jesus, we have a common cause. Believe it or not it is not to bring social justice. The offering of justice is a by-product of having received the love and forgiveness and new life in Christ, to bestow on others. The common cause we share as believers is to proclaim and live with Christ, and for Christ, so that the world knows there is a life grander than one of violence, revenge, hatred, and self-absorption.

If our purpose is to proclaim Christ, how can we respond in these days when anxiety, persuasion, and emotional tactics play such a role? What habits have we established for our lives? Are we thinkers that reflect on history and weigh our decisions? Do we listen to others carefully who differ from us, just in case they may have a point of view that is reasonable?

We do not need fear others because we hold differing points of view. In fact, brotherly/sisterly love demands that we listen carefully with no name calling, no assumptions. In Christian language we say we listen and try to understand another with Grace, God given grace. Ideas matter, words matter. Yet, what counts the most is our genuine willingness to understand another and to be gracious in our speech.

By definition, conversation is meant to be mutual, and two way. The goal of speaking and sharing, especially for a Christian, is to bring out the best in others, not put them down, not cut them out. Forcing someone to be silent because he/she does not agree, is not of Christ. He admired those who questioned with honesty, those who were open to be informed and to receive his love for them. Christ was the listener who was able to pierce the heart, ignite the mind, to bring Kingdom-living into view (check out weekly reflections by Richard, Ruth, and Ben on Colossians).

In the weeks ahead, let us persevere in prayer for a peace in Christ that will “keep us in tune with each other, in step with one another.” Our future resides in life that lasts forever. Together, we can stand firm, mature and confident that God is calling us to proclaim Jesus, and His cross, and His gift of saving grace for all.