11 March 2012

that awkward moment... of grace

You've been there.

You're at a party, or some kind of gathering, mingling with people. You hover near the hors d'oerves hoping someone strikes up conversation with you, or maybe you wander around until you see someone you kind of know.

Eventually you find yourself in conversation with two or three people, maybe introductory or talking about some event that is going on or happened in the past. You all stick to polite conversation until you feel comfortable delving into more personal topics. Things are going well, you find yourself warming up (or maybe it's your second glass of wine) and relaxing into more congenial conversation.

Then it happens. Someone says something and you're caught off-guard. What they have uttered rocks you back on your heels and you are reeling, wondering how you ended up in the same room as someone who could hold such a repugnant opinion or world-view. You're frozen, tongue-tied even, and what's worse is that the other people you're talking to are nodding in affirmation. What is going on?! How do they not see that what this person has said is just... just so... wrong?!

Welcome to the Kingdom of Heaven, my friends.

See, the thing is---we don't get to pick who is or who is not a part of the Kingdom. Everyone (and everything) is part of it, whether they acknowledge it and participate in bringing it about or not. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand." It's here, folks. And as anything involving people usually is, it's kinda messy.

The Kingdom of Heaven is not a place where everyone agrees and holds the exact same viewpoints as you. It's not full of rainbows and kittens and fluffy white clouds. It's a place where God's will is done. It's a place where our own egos and arrogance are abandoned. It's not about who is right and who is wrong--it's about loving each other--sharing in God's love--despite our disagreements. When the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom would come, he answered them, "The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, 'Look, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you." (Luke 17:20b-21) Yes, it's there in the midst of that awkward moment you find yourself in at the party where someone says something you disagree with in every iota of your being.

Getting back to that moment, what is the (Christian) response? Inside you are roiling. You burn to set your glass down and get in his or her face and TELL them how what they said was wrong and possibly offensive. That little voice in your head is telling you to set them straight and perhaps to use language that shows your distaste for the comment.

But that's not going to bring the Kingdom into the moment. In fact, that's probably going to take you a few steps out into the perimeter. Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.

This, my dear friends, is what I affectionately call an 'opportunity for grace.'

In the words of Our Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do. Grace is something that is given to us by God even when--especially when--we aren't exactly deserving of it. It is loving-kindness (chesed) and mercy. We are called as Christians to extend this Grace to others. Yes, even when--especially when--we have been slighted, offended, disgusted. That's why it's grace.

Several times in the New Testament the authors talk about how we are to live as Christians. How should we treat each other in this brave new world? What are we to do with this brand spankin' new gift of grace that was given to us? I am particularly thinking of Romans 14, which you should go read through right now.

Here are a few more:
"Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms." (1 Peter 4:10) <-- personal favorite!

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13)

"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." (Ephesians 4:32)

So the next time you're at a party, or hanging out with family members, or in some other situation, and you find yourself recoiling at something someone says---smile, and whether they realize it or not, offer them grace. If possible, maybe you can speak to them--kindly--about what they said later and invite them into a loving discussion. But if you're going to do that do it with an open heart and don't make it about being right or wrong. Make it about healing and reconciliation--which is what the Kingdom is all about.

Grace and Peace,

PS--here is a pretty good article that also talks about extending grace.


  1. Wonderful post.

  2. Very nice Kathleen, a good message for this political season. Melinda Haines