Wow … not bad .. I’m persisting until a part 3 for what is an ongoing series. That should be an improvement. 🙂 Of course, I’m learning to live in the future in some ways as when this post will be published on the blog, I’m actually probably not going to be in a place where I have internet access. So, this post was posted in the past while I am currently writing for the future. Back to more concrete matters …
“Learning to live more graciously as Christians necessarily involves changing our behavior, for graciousness is expressed in the way we live. But becoming more gracious also requires changing misconstrued thoughts and feelings about God, the world, and other people. It is difficult to treat others with grace if we feel emotionally ill-disposed toward them; it is next to impossible to treat others with respect if our theology says it is all right to disdain them.” (p. 21)
While I was a younger pastor and also a more naive Christian, often what immediately captures my attention are methodological matters or what can change the behaviors first. I must confess it does give more immediate gratification while leaving a strange after taste. As I grow older and bump into more walls … while gaining more exposure to human nature and the intricacies of the world of our thoughts and feelings, this whole “learning to live more graciously” part is hard work.
“Thinking through the implications of faith is challenging work, and it takes effort to evaluate the world intelligently and to reflect on the meaning of the Christian message. Sometimes it is easier simply to repeat old answers without analyzing them, but graciousness requires thoughtfulness, self-awareness and empathy. If our faith is true, knowing what we believe and why will ultimately increase our ability to listen to others with genuine fairness, respect and compassion.” (p. 22)
It’s much harder to deal with “misconstrued thoughts and feelings”. Denial is the operating mode of the day. Excuses about. Or maybe we have too many blind spots. We seem to be over-educated with increased vocabulary to talk about what’s entangled inside and yet are powerless to untie a basic knot. No amount of will power or skill set will deliver us. Humility to say we need help slowly clear our honest admissions is a must. But it’s also humility to allow ourselves to be truly guided by wisdom beyond our truncated universe and limited perspectives. It’s basically a humility which says, it’s hard but I’m willing to change … even if it starts with one basic knot!
“Polishing a tea set does not change the shape of anything. Everything is still in the same place — spout, handle, feet, and lid — but the dullness is gone, and it shines like new. Polishing our Christian belief with the soft cloth of God’s love can help us renew our ways of thinking in a similar way.” (p. 23)
*grin* I think the authors a trying to balance those hard truths earlier with a softer metaphor and analogy. And it’s important to not let fear and trembling have the final word. “The soft cloth of God’s love” first became evident to me while I was doing “Introduction to Christian Spirituality” during the second year of seminary. Perhaps, I was vulnerable because a lot of illusions were shattered, and many crutches were taken away. So, there’s was a yearning for something deeper than what I was used to – whether it’s more inspiring music to more motivational sermons. The firm touch with came through the “soft cloth of God’s love” first dealt with the way I viewed God … all the functional noises fell silent, and the relational music emerged. It was not a dramatic transition, but it was a significant shift.
“Adding graciousness to our differing self-definitions is not meant to blur honest differences. It is meant, rather, to remind us how much we hold in common as followers of Jesus and how much we share a commitment to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves.” (p. 26)
Of course, we can’t be gracious by ourselves and to ourselves… the test comes when we are with others. And the tests never end. The fruit is long lasting though 🙂 …