As I move closer to finish reading the book What´s so Amazing about Grace? By Philip Yancey I grow a bit more uncomfortable. In part, I think it might be because the book was written in the 90s when the author might not have been able to foresee the depths of society depravation that goes on today, almost 20 years after its publication. Or, perhaps it is mostly because of my own refusal to generously extending grace to those who disagree with me… the thing is, reading the last few chapters of this book has seriously challenged my way of thinking about how to deal with those outside my comfort zone. But the way it is accomplishing such goal is not necessarily the most effective for me, personally.
However, anytime God wants me to pay attention, to truly listen to a particular message, He not only works it out in repeated themes and instances, but He also always finds different ways to help me understand it better. The message that the author may be trying to communicate, though not entirely to my liking, was made clearer to me by Pastor Doug, my beloved home church´s Pastor this past Sunday.
As I usually do every Sunday I worship at our home church, I scanned the bulletin for the title of the sermon, and there it was: “Respect for others.”
When I read the title, it didn´t hit me right away. I´m telling, you, when I don´t particularly want to hear or see something, I become very slow. However, the more Pastor Doug kept unfolding the truth of 1 Corinthians 13, the Love chapter, the clearer it became to me how God was massaging in my brain the theme of my need to awaken my love for those whom I don´t agree with…those who are different.
“We, as Christians, must stand for the truth…but we must do so in love…with tact.” I´m not sure those where the words verbatim, but that is the core message that God communicated to me through Pastor Doug´s words.
I think that is my main discomfort with Yancey´s way of delivering the same message: that he doesn´t emphasize, to my satisfaction, at least, the importance of standing with the truth of the Bible. The key is that while we stand firm on the truth, we need to communicate it with love. “Our goal is not to change people´s lifestyles, but to share the good news of Jesus Christ!” Pastor Doug said. “It is not up to us what they do. We are not the Holy Spirit. It is not our job to make people feel convicted.” These words truly drove the message home.
Pastor Doug also shared a story that I had partially heard before about a professor at Moody Bible Institute who came out of a lifestyle of deep sin to the full redemption of the healing power of Christ. And his advice to Christians was that when confronted with people who disagree with us on how to deal with a particular struggle in their lives, if the person approaches us in an antagonistic manner and asks us if what they are doing is bad, “don´t answer, but instead, divert the question to our own struggles and how Jesus is delivering us from it.” Build a friendship first with the person, and then let Christ deal with him or her directly.
I know it will take me a long time to have the courage to put into practice the lessons God is trying to teach me regarding showing love and respect to those I don´t agree with. But He sure is opening my eyes, which up until now where tightly shut. Let´s see if I can finally discover what IS, indeed, SO Amazing about Grace.
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.
Ephesians 4: 15