A grab for grace is going on in many churches and Christian groups. We as individuals want to be assured that we aren’t on the line for our failings. That God’s grace, through Jesus Christ, is the means of salvation. This is truly amazing news and something we should grab onto – and invite in others to share.
How bizarre, then, that people both within and outside often perceive the church as interacting without grace. Yelling down people who don’t agree, keeping out people who don’t fit in, judging without looking at the heart. Throughout history the Christian church has indeed shown gracious mercy when few others would. We have gone into the darkest places of Calcutta, provided meals for the homeless, and lived with lepers. Yet, our ungracious responses both to those within and outside the church are getting more and more airplay.
Even in small, personal interactions gracelessness emerges. A member of a worship team thinks another is singing out of key, shares this with a third person, and the team is irreparably split. The property care team is spending all of its time trying to appease members as a fight brews over the color of carpeting. A long-time member is shunned because of a pending divorce. And these examples don’t even begin to look at the conflicts on denominational and church levels.
In my own life I sense that I am expending a lot of energy fighting with others or ideas and not offering a lot of grace. My way of doing campus ministry must be defended – whether it’s how I’m leading an English class or naming the group. As a church member I look for things to fix and problems to critique instead of listening to others needs and wants. Sometimes these personal and group stances are needed – especially as we stand up for the rights of others. However, many times they reflect how much we don’t really understand God’s grace to us.
It is difficult to walk that line between grace and truth. How is it possible to more readily share the grace God showers on us with others? For starters, God promises that he will fight for us. He will be our shield and defender. If this is true, why do we act as if we must be our own saviors? We don’t need to win all the battles and prove our ‘rightness’ before we step out in grace. Furthermore, we can meet people with Jesus as our example on the night he was betrayed. Listening to others. Speaking wisely and with concern instead of defense. Seeing the image of God before us. Not that this is at all easy or natural, but what a difference this would make as we show graciousness to all, especially with those with whom we disagree.