Thursday, May 2, 2013

On Rediscovering Graciousness

On Saturday I will officiate at the memorial and graveside services for a dear friend who died a few weeks ago. He was loved and honored by the people in his life—many were his faithful church family.

I visited him several times before he slipped away from us. I came straight from church on one visit and brought in the order of service that contained the morning written prayers and scriptures. As I read them to him, he gripped my hand and closed his eyes, and then thanked me for those few minutes of shared worship.

He was a man who relished his friendships and loved his life of faith in Christ. While he continued to grieve the loss of his wife, who died a few years earlier, he found great comfort in his relationships with friends and fellow worshippers.

There is a fine graciousness in that kind of life.

In contrast, I find myself flipping through Facebook posts today that make sure we Christians know exactly who we are supposed to despise and who we are allowed to accept. People still want to excommunicate Rob Bell, flush the church down the toilet, mock theological education, and smash those who are on one side or the other of the gay marriage debate.

Please hear me sighing very loudly right now.

Social media, blogs, websites, etc. are fine places to share ideas. However, they have also provided uncontrolled environments for saying anything we want about anyone we want, and making sure it goes out to our zillions of cyber-friends.

This church (universal) of ours is supposed to look something like a light in relationship to the rest of the world, as I recall. Those who identify with Jesus are ones who are to be marked by love. I worry about how that is going for us.

A picture comes to mind: A stunningly beautiful cathedral—a structure whose very architectural design bears witness to the glory of God—defaced by a blanket of graffiti. After a while, you quit seeing the essence of the building. You only see the rantings of those whose only contribution came out of the can of cheap spray paint.

I guess it would be too much to ask us to quit throwing accusations (isn’t Accuser one of the translations of the word Satan? That job has been taken, friends!) and instead start talking to one another. After all, we might actually hear other people and either learn something new (which for some, is the slippery slope toward heresy) or find that what we thought about them was in need of correction.

In doing so, we might learn that we are engaging with real people, people loved by God, and people trying to orient their lives around God.

We need to rediscover graciousness. My friend, whose life we will celebrate on Saturday, reminds me of that.

Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on us.

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