Thursday, February 14, 2013

Demanding Grace Without Giving It

We Demand Grace and Understanding, But Do We Give It?

Yesterday, I tweeted this:  "We so often want people to understand and see our point of view, but do we do the same for them?"  I recently wrote some thoughts about "the other", in which I said this:
What can we do?  How can we lovingly help open the eyes of others who don't know what they cannot see?  How can we do that for ourselves?  We want people to look at "the other", the people they don't know, or don't care to know, the people they write off because they disagree with their religious beliefs or their lifestyle  or their political positions or any reason at all.  But do we do it ourselves?  Can I look at a hatred-filled fundamentalist, see him or her as "the other", and then turn it back on myself and look at myself through that person's eyes?
That's very hard to do when we think we've got everything all figured out.  And we do think that, don't we?  I know I often do.  When I think about how much I have learned and studied and I am with people who have not learned what I have, who do not know what I know, I can inwardly feel a bit snobby about that.

But then I remember that there are a lot of people who know a lot more than I do, and my pride recedes.  But unfortunately, I see a lot of pride in a lot of Christians.  I think that while many of us believe that faith is a journey, and while we want others to understand that, we forget that they are on a journey too, and their journey is not the same as ours.  It is as if once we've "arrived" we want everyone else to hurry up and get there too.  How can we in good conscience do that?  How can we demand of others what we do not want demanded from ourselves?  If faith is a journey, then shouldn't we give grace to those who are not at the same spot as us?

If a topic has been discussed for some time, and a person enters the conversation with some new-to-them thoughts, and perhaps an audience who hasn't yet thought or discussed the topic, then shouldn't that person be encouraged and welcomed, not belittled and put down and treated as if he or she is stupid?

Conversations do not always have to be battles fought, and it seems to me that too often, it is a battle.  Educating others on issues that we have come to be knowledgeable about is a great thing, however, sometimes it is not done in a loving way.  Just because we may be correct does not mean we have to be arrogant about it.  If we do that, then are we not becoming that which we find abhorrent in others?

People watch how we treat each other.  And sadly, too often, we treat our fellow Christians badly, no matter which side of which issue we find ourselves taking.  We are failing in the new commandment.
"I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." --John 13:34-35
In this article from Christianity Today, "The Westboro Baptist in All of Us", Marlena Graves writes:
There's no doubt that some of us evangelicals do have a penchant for bludgeoning those Christians unlike us; we zealously use godless means to accomplish what we believe to be God's ends. We fail to realize that God cares about the means we use just as much as he cares about the ends. 
Even though Ms. Graves specifies evangelicals, I would suggest that Christians of all categories do this.  I've seen it on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.  We talk a good deal about brokenness, healing, redemption, grace.  We open up with our personal stories.  And then we expect others to conform to our stories.  We want people to see their own pride and judgmental-ism, but we can't see our own.  We pick apart and find fault with so much, forgetting that these are real people, broken, and so are we.

I see a lot of blogs, Facebook posts, and tweets that give me much to ponder.  At the same time, though, I feel disappointment when I notice when what is said appears to be done in a manner that often can come across as self-righteous.  And you know what?  I recognize it because I've done it.  I remember a number of years ago when I would participate in online discussions and feel very proud of how I wrote out my points and my arguments.  While I would likely still stand by the content of what I wrote back then, I don't think it was necessarily done in the right manner.

All of us need to be mindful of how we present ourselves (and I am sure I fall short at times too).  As a Christian, I try to stay keenly aware that my writing represents not only myself, but is how I represent Jesus, too.  I think Paul's words to the Galatians are appropriate here, in learning how to navigate this very public world in which we live:
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.   If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.      --Galatians 5:22-25  
As Christians, I think we need to take seriously our call to be guided by the Spirit.  While this will not look exactly the same for everyone,  we can always ask if our words and actions are bearing this type of fruit.  If they are, wonderful.  If they are not, then, our God is a God of second (and more) chances, making us new and whole and beautiful.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.--Romans 15:13


Caris Adel said...

oh my goodness, I used to be awful at that. I'm sure I still am at some points, but I really try to be conscious of it. When I first joined FB - whoo boy. haha. I was so cocky. Discovering the 'I don't know' aspect of emergent/post-modern christian stuff was really helpful. I didn't have to be cocky or have the right answer to prove my worth. that was really healing, actually.

Kelly J Youngblood said...

I'm not totally sure what I can contribute my lessened cockiness to--the Holy Spirit working on my heart, I guess :) I'm not conscious of any particular point in time of changing; I just know that I have.

Matt Appling said...

Kelly, even better than your tweet. :) Thank you for saying what needs to be said!

Kelly J Youngblood said...

Thanks, Matt!

Tia Dye said...

I am always hoping that I come to a discussion with a balance between openness for others opinions and a solid biblical foundation. I am sure I have and will fall short. But, I am glad you wrote this. I think it is an important point.

Kelly J Youngblood said...

Thanks. I know I do struggle with it--which is partly why I wrote it; to help myself remember.