Faith, Culture & The Church
"In Him [Christ] you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
(Ephesians 2:22, NIV)
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40, NIV).
I walked away from a conversation the other day feeling wounded, like I had just been hit with an uppercut from a prizefighter. And this seems common lately, these unexpected blows caused from words, circumstances or judgments not founded on truth. Although another hit left me reeling, feeling like I might just fall to the mat, I have come to a new dependence on and understanding of grace. For this I am grateful.
Grace is an eloquent and beautiful word. But it came at a brutal cost--bloodshed and death. Grace from heaven is freely given and I delight in the grace I receive. But to extend grace is a constant and exhausting boxing match that takes place in my heart, mind and soul. Lies must be beaten down. Thoughts that assume the best of the other need to be set at center. And truly believing the God's really good at defending his own must outrun the determination to fix things myself.
To be grace to the one who jabs my sides is a brutal fight. A fight that requires a death. Grace required Christ’s death. And for grace to win in my heart, a death of my desires to seek truth and justice for selfish gain or emotional satisfaction must also occur.
Grace has already won me. But to allow grace to win in me the full armor of God must be put on. Hour by hour. Day by day. Week by week. I must suit up and fight to believe that I win, the Church wins, and relationship wins when I set aside my defenses and let grace truly cover the offenses. Because grace makes way for forgiveness. Forgiveness ushers in freedom. Glorious, undeserved, freedom!
Freedom sets us free from pain, bondage and mind games. Grace, forgiveness and freedom keep relationships intact and the body of Christ effective. And this is why relationships increase our Christ-likeness, propel us toward our purpose and build up lineage after lineage of faith.
My challenge for you today is for you to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you more clearly all the ways he has entrusted the gifts of relationships to you. So that you can love him more completely and love his people more intentionally. For example, friends, neighbors, co-workers, mentors, parents, children, widows, orphans, or the elderly. Pray for discernment to know in what area(s) of your life you need to intentionally pursue deeper relationships with others who grow your need for understanding and living grace.
Pray that you will know what obedience looks like for you and that you would know how to access the power, resources and creativity to obey. Take one step, and then the next one, and the next. Soon each step might be just a little bit easier. Or you’ll be stronger, so it will at least seem easier.
Jesus once said to his disciples, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, NLT). How we live in relationship with others impacts the world of observers around us. Take the time often to Go & See who has helped to prove to you, through the way he or she loved, that relationships graft us into a tree of faith that started with the lineage of Jesus. Reminisce about those dear ones that loved you unconditionally, with grace and truth, setting you on the path you are on today. Let your remembering and documenting fill you with a gratitude that motivates you to pass keep the faith family tree growing.
And when words jab, assumptions knock you down, or circumstances throw you off balance, don't give up on the people it appears you are fighting against. Choose to put down your comebacks and let God be your defender. Choose to fight the real enemy--Satan the deceiver, liar, and destroyer--with prayer, praise, and truth. Choose to fight for grace to win in you because it has already won you.