Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sunday Sum-Up: Giving Grace

I really never intended to talk about God so much in this blog.  It's not that I ever wanted to purposefully shy away from my relationship with God/Jesus here, but I never purposed for this blog to be so close to my faith.  It's just very hard for me to separate my writing from my beliefs, and vice versa.  I guess it's a good sign that I can't compartmentalize; Christ isn't just a part of my life.  He's everything.  And while sometimes I can blog about something without bringing my faith into it, it's exceptionally difficult (or perhaps impossible) to talk about what's going on in my life without bragging on God.  Because the Lord is the One who is leading me through my life right now, and He's teaching me far more than I deserve to learn.

A theme that keeps popping up right now is grace.  And grace is a weighty term, hard to define, even harder to accept and express.  Maybe it should be simple, but because we're complicated people, we tend to make even the simplest concepts difficult.  The grace of God is free, and yet so many people can't accept it.  People can't even accept the reality of a gracious God, or they can't accept the goodness of a gracious God, or they can't accept that grace is really free apart from human effort, or they can't accept that free grace could be for a sinful person.  And while I could camp out on that for a while, that's really not what I want to focus on here, not because it's not important, but because it's really not what I'm struggling and striving with right now.

I know God is gracious.  I know that His grace is free.  I know that it's His good pleasure to give that grace to sinners--sinners like me.  And it's one thing to sit here and blog about being a sinner saved by grace; it's a totally different thing to live that out.  God's been patiently, graciously teaching me that everything He allows to happen in my life--everything--is a chance to love others and a chance to trust Him.  But once again, it's one thing to blog about that, and another thing to live it out. 

I'm blogging about this as my weekly sum-up because the Lord's been working on this concept of giving grace to others, and this week He's really brought all that to a crux.  I went to one of those preschool teacher workday things, expecting to hear about different ways to help children learn and grow.  I was actually expecting it to be boring and generally not useful to my life.  Instead, our director talked to us about communicating love and grace to one another.  And it went along perfectly with everything the Lord's been teaching me.  ...and it humbled me.

Then I read a blog post entitled "I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay" , and I was floored.  The author isn't a Christian, but he gets something that a lot of Christians seem to miss.  Now, I don't agree with every statement he made, nor do I think that homosexuality is okay (just to clarify, I don't hate gays; in fact, I have some gay friends.  I believe practicing homosexuality is a sin--just like any other sin--which is something that is contrary to the will of God--and I'm definitely a sinner in need of grace just like everyone else), but I admire and respect the guy who wrote this blog.  First off, he was respectful, yet honest.  Second, he stated his main point clearly without allowing himself to be drawn away to any arguments that were secondary to his main point: that no one is perfect and that everyone needs love.  As far as his blog post goes, it doesn't matter if his readers think that homosexuality is a sin or not; the point is, we're all imperfect people, and we all need love.

And I'm not about to go start holding up signs that say "God Hates Fags," but if I were really honest with myself, I'm pretty sure that sometimes I'm holding up an invisible sign that says, "The way you're dressed makes me uncomfortable," or "The fact that you just ran a red light means I have the right to honk my horn and yell at you," or "The language you're using makes me not want to associate with you." 

Where do I get the idea that some sins are worse than others?  Where do I get the idea that I'm more righteous than others?  How can I so easily accept the free grace of God without giving it just as freely to others? 

But I'm not the only one who does it.  I'm not justifying myself.  I'm not trying to judge others.  I'm just stating a fact.  I know I'm not the only one who does it because God/Jesus/The Holy Spirit saw/sees a need to speak again and again to the self-righteousness of humanity.

The bottom line?  We're all children.  I work with kids.  What are they like?  They can be sweet and tender.  They're a great joy to me.  But honestly, children are often childish (imagine that).  If I ask a child to clean something up, the #1 response I get is, "But I didn't make the mess!"  And that's a ridiculous attitude, but recently I discovered that grown-ups act the same way.  If I see something out of place in the preschool storage room, instead of simply putting it away, I mentally tell myself, "Whoever took it out should put it away.  It's not my responsibility."  And everyone has that attitude, so as a result, the misplaced item never gets put in its place.  So someone gets upset because the room eventually gets messy.  Then the grumbling starts.  Wouldn't it be easier to just clean up one another's messes?  Wouldn't it be easier to GET OVER OURSELVES and show a little grace?

If I sound preachy, it's because I'm preaching to myself.  I have been given so much grace.  I can't hoard that grace; I need to give it to others.  The thing that keeps me from loving my neighbor: pride.  Selfishness.  Fear that I'll not have enough for myself.  I'd be much better off forgetting myself.  And doing this is impossible in my own power. 

Ironically, the only way I can be gracious is to receive grace.  And, praise the Lord, He is faithful.  He does give more grace.

I could go on and on, but I'm going to leave you with the incredible words of James.  I'm posting the entire chapter of James 4, because it's all pertaining to what I've said here.  We need to get over ourselves and our selfish desires.  We need to rely on the grace of God.  We need to humble ourselves and boast only in the Lord.  It's easy to look down on others for the wicked things they do, but sometimes we're even more guilty because there is good that we can do, there are people we can love, and when we fail to love, we sin.

"What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.  When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
'God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble.'
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor? Now listen, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.' Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, 'If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.' As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins." --James 4

I'm going to say just one thing more.  I've had several conversations about my new blog project this week.  I'm still working on it, still praying about it, still planning and getting excited.  The thing is, all this stuff that the Lord is graciously teaching me is really applicable to my blog.  That's just really neat to me, how the Lord is working and bringing things together, just at the right time.  God is so good.

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