Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Graciousness: Leaving the Stones at Home

Friends, here's another guest blogger post that we've entitled:

"Graciousness: Leaving the Stones at Home."

A big "Thank You" to my little brother for sharing. Peace & Blessings to you and yours.

Are Christians called to be gracious? I suppose it depends on what you mean by gracious. I asked Google to "define: gracious" and interestingly, it provided me with two definitions for the adjective "gracious." One in common vernacular, and the other from a Christian perspective.

1. courteous, kind, and pleasant.
"smiling and gracious in defeat"
synonyms: courteous, polite, civil, chivalrous, well mannered, mannerly, decorous;
2. (in Christian belief) showing divine grace.
"I am saved by God's gracious intervention on my behalf"
synonyms: merciful, compassionate, kind;

I believe we are, but not specifically in the common definition (though, I do believe that the second builds on the first). We are not merely called to be the "hostess with the mostess", but gracious in the way that Christ was while He was with us.

Now obviously, Christ didn't walk around the Middle East being followed by a stenographer who was feverishly writing down his every word; so we have limited data from which to draw our opinions. However, it seems from my readings of scripture that the only people that Christ criticized were the people in the religious community. He lambasted them regularly, I believe, because they should have known better. I think the only time that Christ used harsh language was when he was addressing the church. Toward the unchurched and uneducated He was soft and tender. He used language that was simple, and non-confrontational.

Many people have made a big deal about the fact that Jesus ate with various "sinners". We have (...ok, I have), always viewed that as an example of how tolerant Jesus was toward the lost sheep of Israel. But it occurred to me today that He was invited to their table. It doesn't seem to be very likely that Christ knocked on the door and said "let me bless you with my presence." It was more likely that he was speaking to some of them close to mealtime and they invited Him to dine with them.

I can't imagine the religious leaders of the day being invited to dine with prostitutes and tax collectors. Of course, it wouldn't be a problem since the religious folks wouldn't likely have accepted such an invitation anyway. But my point is, the "sinners" felt comfortable enough with Jesus to invite Him to dinner. They obviously didn't feel that they would be "lectured at" for their lifestyle or the choices that they've made. They likely felt a rapport with Him. When I think of the people I've met, whose company I enjoyed the most, they were the people who let me tell my story. Chances are good that Jesus was the same way. (Can you imagine being in the presence of the living God incarnate, and having Him ask you about the things that are important to you?).

So here's the bite: Do we follow in the footsteps of Christ, or in the footsteps of the "good" religious folks? Do we have pet sins about which we cannot keep silent? Is there a particular group of "sinners" who would never invite us to dinner? Alcoholics? Drug users? Profaners? Homosexuals? Transvestites? Adulterers? The corrupt? The inhumane? Convicted criminals? Moslems? Jews? Jehovah's witnesses? Atheists?

If you ask most Christians today, (and they answer honestly), I'll bet that they feel that God wants them to point out the error in such sinful lifestyles. But my question is this: Why would God expect that of us, if He didn't expect it of His own son? If His own son could make these people so comfortable that they would invite Him into their homes, why would God expect us to shame the same types of people into repentance? Now, God does expect us to root out such lifestyle choices in the body of Christ. Of that I have no doubt.

When we see someone professing to be a follower of Jesus, especially if they are leading others, and they have obvious sin in their lives, they should be lovingly corrected, and coached to bring restoration. But even there, I feel that the rebuke must be gentle and compassionate, because none of us deserve the salvation that Christ offers. (Let him without sin cast the first stone). But those that are sinning against a God in whom they don't believe first need to be introduced to Him. They need to experience His grace first hand... and since we are His hands and feet (and mouth), it falls on us to show them the mercy, compassion, and kindness that Christ himself would have shown had He been here today.

May God grant us a tongue that is still enough, and ears that are open enough, to hear the concerns of His elect; and patience enough to make the introduction.

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