Approaching Issues with Grace

downloadSo many issues, so many choices in how to approach them.

There are the biggies: gun control, abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, and the list goes on. Then there are the ones that we don’t deal with on a national scale, but they soak into the very same topics as well as permeate our daily lives: forgiveness, tolerance, hypocrisy, mercy, pride, rights, humility…

We separate one from another, because we don’t want to have to apply the same standards everywhere. We can support one issue based on a premise that undermines another. We can set ourselves emotionally aside for one issue but come unglued for another. We point out the logical flaws of someone else’s argument but fail to see our own. Worse yet, we apply God’s Word to condemn others while applying God’s Word into our own lives, inviting him to challenge our own faults and offenses.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. But early in the morning he went back to the Temple, and all the people came to him, and he sat and taught them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery. They forced her to stand before the people. They said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught having sexual relations with a man who is not her husband. The law of Moses commands that we stone to death every woman who does this. What do you say we should do?” They were asking this to trick Jesus so that they could have some charge against him.

But Jesus bent over and started writing on the ground with his finger. When they continued to ask Jesus their question, he raised up and said, “Anyone here who has never sinned can throw the first stone at her.” Then Jesus bent over again and wrote on the ground.

Those who heard Jesus began to leave one by one, first the older men and then the others. Jesus was left there alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus raised up again and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one judged you guilty?”

She answered, “No one, sir.”

Then Jesus said, “I also don’t judge you guilty. You may go now, but don’t sin anymore.” (John 8:1-11)

How can we approach all the issues surrounding us? Grace.

We can’t force others to walk the same journey we’ve walked, recognizing every truth we’ve struggled to face. We can’t fix all wrongs or become the keeper of all moral rights and wrongs. God is the judge, and he does a good job of it. He doesn’t need our help. He needs our obedience. And being obedient to God means living out the lives he created us to live, becoming more and more like him every moment of every day.

Can you claim to becoming more like God with every moment of every day?

When we walk with God, the issues become secondary. How we approach every person and every situation comes from the core of our faith. We yield to how he guides our responses, and he knows what he’s doing more than we’ll ever know while walking this journey on earth. When we’re concerned with where God has us and what he’s teaching us, we’ll be a lot less concerned with keeping track of everyone’s issues. Oh, we’ll certainly still be engaged in issues, because God engages us in the community and world we live. But we stop trying to fit God into the issues; we let the issues fit into our relationship with God.

God sent Jesus to place a grace-filled path under your feet. Are you walking on it? As you do, you will be living the grace-filled path out loud for all to see and hear.

But the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to true life. (Matthew 7:14a)

Endure For a Little While

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

It sounded like the roofers were coming through our roof.

I stepped outside to check on the progress, and I heard an even louder banging. Our neighbor had someone in his old cistern, breaking it apart with a jackhammer, causing loud booms to echo as the sounds ricocheted among the houses. I heard beeping down the street and glanced to see a city backhoe working on a corner. In the other direction, two construction trucks pulled into a yard to begin working on a front porch.

I felt sorry for anyone in the neighborhood who expected a quiet day. We live in a typically calm area.

There are seasons in our lives that cause a lot of noise and distraction. Those seasons affect people around us, too. As distracting and annoying as the noise can be, in order to grow, we need to endure and invest in those times. Without a new roof, we won’t enjoy the protection through rain, wind, and several feet of snow. Without the demolished old cistern, our neighbor won’t be able to trust the foundation of the new part of his house. Without the backhoe, the water line can’t be maintained and relied upon.

Without intentional maintenance and sacrificial investment, our faith doesn’t grow. We may not like those raucous times when everything seems inconvenient and overwhelming, but God uses those situations and experiences to remind us of His protection…break down what’s getting in the way in order to build something more solid…regularly check, maintain, and improve the lines of communication and nourishment we need to thrive.

What we endure in faith for and with God has eternal consequences that help us every single day.

 

Open-Minded

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Luke 24:45

What do you think of when you hear the term “open-minded”?

Does someone who is willing to consider a different perspective, behavior, or belief come to mind? How does being open-minded connect with tolerance? Does being open-minded mean you must accept perspectives, behaviors or beliefs different than your own?

In Luke 24:45, Jesus “opened (the disciples) minds.” The Greek transliteration of mind is nous, indicating understanding, discernment, or intellect. I picture this as if Jesus opened the blinds of understanding. The disciples already had minds. They already had understanding, discernment and intellect, but Jesus opened – or adjusted – them to let in more.

Why? “…so they could understand the Scriptures.” Here’s the cool part. (Am I revealing my geeky Bible-nerd side?) The Greek transliteration of understand is syniem, meaning to comprehend, understand or perceive. Syniem is different from another Greek word for understand, manthano. Manthano indicates the capability of knowing. Syniem indicates the activity of knowing.

Jesus didn’t just give the disciples the information he wanted them to know. He revealed himself in a way that presented them the opportunity to engage with him and actively know more of him through Scripture.

God engages us in the process of knowing. God wants us to seek him. As we seek him, we grow closer to him, and he reveals himself to us even more. We don’t just learn information about him. He created us with the capacity to gather knowledge. We can fill ourselves up with knowledge, but he wants more for us. He wants us to actively seek him.

Being open-minded isn’t being like a sponge, soaking up and accepting everything around us. Being open-minded is active and discerning. It takes thought and effort. It’s about trust and timing. It’s listening, engaging, and responding…to God.

Being open-minded isn’t a new idea, proposed by our culture, a political system, or popular TV personalities and influential writers. Being open-minded is a biblical concept, distorted to fit what we as self-centered humans would prefer it to be. We think being open-minded in our definition of tolerance is an act of kindness and love. We applaud ourselves because we’re not judging anyone, and we’re letting everyone be who and what they want to be. We think we’re being selfless with our tolerance, but are we? Or are we placing ourselves in the middle of the universe? In our attempts to be nonjudgmental, are we becoming the judges of all, demanding tolerance as an absolute for all?

You might not believe Jesus’ words. You might not believe Jesus at all. But I encourage you to be open-minded…by his own definition. It might not happen today or tomorrow. It’s a process. Seek him and ask him to open your mind. Then search Scriptures. What can it hurt? If you see yourself as an open-minded person, tolerant of anyone’s perspective, behavior, or belief, you’ll simply be consistent in your definition of your open-mindedness. And if you decide open-mindedness has limitations? I suspect you’ll grow through that discovery as well. 

I am going to send you what my Father has promised. Luke 24:49

Unity

I listened to various people read Ephesians, and I was struck by the differences in voices. Everyone had his/her own style of reading. Several read from different versions of the Bible. The words jumped off the page of my Bible as I listened. The words came to life through listening to my friends read. As I heard their voices, I also heard their personalities and experiences. I thought of the struggles they’ve recently shared. I thought of their varying life stages. I thought of how God created each of them to be unique.

And yet, we’re united.

In our unity, we celebrate our differences. With our differences, we strive toward unity.

I don’t need to respect how someone is different from me just because she’s different – as my culture of tolerance would dictate. I respect the person because she’s created by God. I also don’t accept every difference, because not every difference is God-given. I measure each difference with God’s guidelines and then respond with his love, which includes encouragement and compassion as well as discipline and accountability.

The same applies to similarities. I might connect with someone who is similar to me…but what if we’re similar in ways that aren’t God-honoring? Unity includes a willingness to extend and accept encouragement, compassion, discipline, and accountability. Unity involves trusting God enough to let him work through others in my life – using his standards – not mine, a friend’s, or society’s.

God is patient and compassionate but he’s also just. He has standards, and in order to maintain order in a chaotic world, we must expend effort. It takes effort to confront on the path to make peace. It takes effort to understand someone’s perspective and extend compassion. It takes effort to accept and offer forgiveness. It’s easy to find turmoil and dissension. The effort toward unity is worth every bead of sweat and minute of time.

In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences. You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. Ephesians 4:1-5 (The Message)