One of the challenges I confess as the pastor or chief sinner of the church I pastor is how we can facilitate a meaningful conversation on topics which matter between those who are more exposed to Christianity and those who are less. Some can spout words like Dispensationalism with ease while others might wonder what’s so “sensational” about that. Others frown with deep thought wrestling with multiple perspective, while others might be happy with a one sentance answer. So, even being part of a community like this gives us opportunity to practice “graciousness”. A “graciousness” to listen to someone who is not in our comfort zone.
“Graciousness is how we externalize to others the grace we have internalized from God.
… To be gracious toward someone is to show that person love, but graciousness points toward love with an important qualification. Graciousness is love that never forces itself on anyone.” (p. 18)
“… graciousness could thus be defined as love offered truly lovingly, as love that makes no show of itself, as love that seeks no praise in return.” (p. 19)
Bringing the God factor in our conversation makes it sound more religious but it also helps us not to degenerate into mere human talk and psychology. We live in a often over-psychologized environment. When we become a little bit over dependent on pop psychology rather than a sustained honest assessment of ourselves, we tend toward quick fixes. And I think that misses the true benefit of authentic use of psychology to help us understand ourselves. But the God factor brings a divine dimension for sure, and an air of sacredness too … and in a Christian faith point of view, concreteness to the words like “grace” and “love”. It strips them from abstractness and sentimentality. There’s sacrifice, there’s pain, there’s suffering. And yet there is also joyful delight, humility and true freedom.
Bob Brow extended much “love that never forces itself on anyone” especially to me at my moment of confusion years ago. While his Model Theology was a wonderful initiation to broaden my horizons, it was those precious email exchanges, prayer support and wise listening plus discernment – and most of all bringing a “God-kind-of” or theological perspective on my situation which made such a big difference. There was space for me to pour own all the mess I had in me and any time, and then there were gentle nudges towards cleaning my self up, healing the wounds and taking baby steps forward again. I confess, it’s wonderful from a receiving end, but it can be painful when we are challenged to offer it to those whom we care. That gives me a glimpse into the heart of those who gives space to allow wandering hearts grow even to the point of needing to let them go. That’s part and parcel of the kind of love and grace we are exploring … it maybe a love that will never let us go as in it’s faithful and loyal … but it’s also a love which wants to let us grow and that kind of love is painful.
Help us Lord, never to take that kind of love for granted.