06 March 2010

A culture of effort, or a culture of grace

There's a provocative article on racial reconciliation in the new issue of Christianity Today by Chris Rice, co-director of the Duke's Center for Reconciliation. If they make it available online, I'll provide the link, but I suggest any who have an opportunity to read it at a library, church, etc., should do so.

In it, he talks about a ministry of reconciliation of which he was a part in the late 90's that, in effect, had dried up. He was on the verge of leaving a partnership with an African-American friend and the congregation the two co-pastored was feeling the strain and angst in the relationship.

They consulted with John Alexander who diagnosed the problem with these words, "If you don't give God's love in your bones, you will become very dangerous people. Especially activists like you. The most important person in the community is not [the pastors], or any of you, or the people in the neighborhood. The most important person in the community is Jesus. Your life has to keep Jesus at the center."

After the consultation, the author and his partner actually did the hard work of extending grace and the author's partner pointed out that actually extending grace to others in the minutiae of day to day life is a very, very difficult thing.

I won't ruin the rest of the article by summarizing it here, but it's a great reminder that justice issues need to, first, be taken to the cross of Christ. As the author says, "We are not the central actors in saving the world's brokenness. In the life and resurrection of the crucified Christ now living in heaven, God has given us everything we need to live well in a broken world through the Holy Spirit. God has already changed everything through the power of a grace we do not deserve."

And, though I promise I do not mean to diminish the grandeur of working against injustice in the world, for me, the article was a great reminder that ALL issues need to, first, be taken to the cross of Christ. Even (or perhaps, especially) the day-to-day weariness induced by the "effort" so many of us put into parenting can be revived by a reminder to bask in grace for a bit. Again, in the author's words, "For us, 'telling the truth' had come to mean telling...each other how they needed to change. But now we saw that the greatest truth was telling and showing each other how much God loves us. Our paradigm for daily life had shifted to John's mantra, 'Caring for each other, forgiving each other, and keeping the dishes washed. We are forgiven. All the rest is details."

It resonates; that much is sure.

Good stuff. Check it out.

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