In this country you have the right and the freedom to choose to live and do whatever you wish, as long as it is legal.
But you should not have the freedom to force me to be a part of your choices, or to support them if it disagrees with my belief and convictions.
I posted this recently on Facebook. In hindsight maybe I shouldn’t have. Too often I have an us vs. them mentality.
And while my stand on Facebook post is valid it could be taken as confrontational, me vs. them.
Jesus encounters a woman at a well.
After asking her for a drink of water, the conversation turns to more important issues.
Jesus asks about her husband. The woman truthfully says she doesn’t have one. Jesus affirms her partial truthfulness “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband”
The woman to her credit does not deny his claims but acknowledges Him as a prophet. She does what many of us do when faced with uncomfortable situation she changes the subject an attempts to draw Jesus into a theological discussion about where to worship.
In his book Vanishing Grace Phillip Yancey makes this observation;
Jesus deflects this theological discussion, refusing an argument about where God should be worshiped and instead summoned up a thirst already evident in her troubled life of five failed marriages.
To this woman who was not only a despised Samaritan, but also an outcast among her own people because of her immorality, Jesus’s willingness to offer her “living water”, and not just point out her faults provided the one thing she needed most.
Scripture records that this not only changed her life but also “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the women’s testimony.” John 4:39
We find the potential for lack of grace in our world today.
Instead of Jew versus Samaritan, Jew vs. Gentile, today it is Christian versus atheist. Christian versus Muslim. Christians versus homosexuals. Christians versus Christians.
Sadly the end result is that even though the church does many good things, we are viewed as unkind, judgmental, narrow minded, unloving, harsh.
And like my post on Facebook we can be theologically, constitutionally and legally correct, but miss the most important thing grace.
Yancey tells the story of Craig Detweiler.
Craig for a number of years brought his communications students from Pepperdine and Biola University to the Sundance Film Festival.
That year one of the sold-out showings featured a film that was a scathing portrayal of American evangelicals
“The movie told the story of a white-bread suburban family killed in a car wreck on the way to a Southern Baptist church meeting.
After getting to heaven they are sent back to earth by a tattooed Jesus.
This time stripped of original sin, they celebrate their new shamelessness by walking around naked and doing things that shock their friends and neighbors.
Scandalized, other Christians at a Bible study hatch a plan to give the resurrected family an apple pie laced with poison, sending them promptly back to heaven.
The Sundance audience laughed uproariously throughout the film, relishing the depiction of Christians as repressed, intolerant, even homicidal…..
The director received a standing ovation and fielding questions from the audience was asked if any conservative Christians had seen it. “I’m ready for the fight,” he declared, prompting more applause.
Without thinking Craig Detweiler stood to his feet with a response.
I’ll let him relate what happened next.
I struggled to compose my words. My voice cracked slightly. I eked our, “Jay thank you for this film. As a native of North Carolina, a fellow filmmaker, and an evangelical Christian…..”
I never use the word evangelical. It is so loaded with negative baggage that I usually attempt to distance myself from such associations.
But in this instance it seemed quite right
I was speaking for my community, responding to a particular stance we’d staked ourselves.
Jay stepped back ready for the fight, tensed up, preparing for the counterattack. The crowd sensed it was about to get ugly.
My next words caught them off-guard:
“Jay I apologize for everything ever done to you in the name of God.”
The tenor of the room shifted. Audience members turned around. “Did I hear that correctly?”
“Who said that?”
Jay fumbled for words, not knowing how to respond. He was not prepared for an apology. He offered a modest”Thank you”
The audience literally was disarmed.
Audience members afterwards approached me with hugs.
A lesbian couple thanked me.
Gay men hugged me.
One person said, “If that is true, I might consider giving Christianity another chance.”
Tears were shed.
Because of two little words. ” I apologize”
My students talked to the cast and crew and invited them to join us for further conversations.
The cast came to our class and answered questions for over an hour.
An actor admitted how scared he was to enter our church meeting place. Onstage he confided, “Coming into this building, my heart was beating faster than any audition I’ve ever had.”
The producer said,”This was the most significant moment of our week.”
A simple apology set in motion a series of conversations and exchanges about our faith and how we live it.”
Even though I stand by and believe the comment that I posted on Facebook yesterday, looking back it was probably not meant for public consumption. At least on social media. A place where things can easily be interpreted the wrong way.
After all people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
And maybe putting a stake in the ground and proclaiming this is where I stand, does not serve the cause of grace that God desires all would know.
Maybe the most important stand I can take is the one that Jesus and Craig took.
A stand that sets aside the peripheral matters and with humility and Grace enables me to meet people where they are and show them love that will draw them to Him.
I do not have all the answers, or even full understand how this looks in real day to day life.
But I do understand that Jesus met me where I was. A sinner in need of Grace, and it was that grace that drew me to Him.
Jesus help me to follow your example….