I think we’ve started a good rhythm meeting on every 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month using Gracious Christianity as our guide in terms of orientating our conversations and daily praxis. I realize that I’ve been slow to post my thoughts and reflections on what we have talked about and the experience of doing this together. The upcoming series of posts would be the closest to doing a series I’ve ever done on this blog apart from the Friends in Conversation 2007 build up and post-event reflections. For me it’s easier to post some excerpts from the book and allow insights to emerge ð
“We have a gracious gospel. The good news that Jesus proclaimed is that God is graciously disposed toward us.
… Graciousness is a nonnegotiable dimension of Christian faith. It goes to the very core of the gospel. It is what makes the gospel good news.” (p. 17)
My immediate reaction to the word “nonnegotiable” in relation to the Christian faith usually is associated with words like Christ, Church (community), Canon, , Creed, Trinity, Scripture … etc. So, when”Graciousness” crops up above I’m drawn to re-look at my beliefs and practices from a different angle. It’s not only What is presented before us, but even How the good news is offered to us.
In our catechism classes in BLC, we use Luther’s Small Catechism as a guide for those desiring baptism as well as affirmation. For me, it’s not so much of a closed guide, but using a historical resource to (1) anchor us back to concrete history and our heritage (2) serve as one way to get us started with the help of focusing on the 10 Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. Of course, we talk about more than these, but as you can see it’s more of the What which is being emphasized (at least that’s on the surface). The How comes as we work through and struggle through the messiness of our understandings, the back and forth of questions and answers, the clearing of mis-information, the body language, the times of prayer, the expressions of honest doubt .. all happening within the class context. Of course, this extends beyond in how we relate to each other at the coffee shop, before and after the classes, in our email exchanges and so forth.
This phrase “Graciousness is a nonnegotiable dimension of Christian faith. It goes to the very core of the gospel.” is haunting me right now. I know it’s not about being nice and nerdy. But, right action (orthopraxis) is being lifted up together with right thinking or more precise right worship (orthodoxy). And deep down I know no amount of will power is going to make this stick in the long run …
There is something so right about bringing “Graciousness” up front … at least in this time and age where there is so much “ungrace”. But I do wonder where do we get the strength to be truly gracious?
I’ve grown in my love for reading theology thus changing my ways of thinking helps a lot, when we can be freed from our own mental imprisonment. My friends who are working in the grass root levels of service and ministry keeps me from any form of Ivory tower thinking, and the need to get our hands dirty. Plus, now how can we do all this “graciously” is an increasing challenge when others might want to “bully” or “bulldoze” there way on us.
Amen to “Graciousness”! But how, and how in the long run …
Again and again, it’s sitting still like now in meditation or prayerful reflection which puts me in a place of true empowerment of the Spirit. Something which has kept me going for a long time and I believe more years to come. It comes back to simple prayer doesn’t it? Well … it’s more than simple prayer … but I can’t do without it.
2 thoughts on “What is Gracious Christianity? (1)”
Hi Sivin, I have enjoyed my visits to BLC. I appreciate how the young adults (I’m comparatively old!) are the ones playing an active role in the church and with your guidance would be able to mature into their leadership roles. This course on Gracious Christianity you are teaching sounds interesting. It does seem like it will help people move beyond head knowledge to the praxis of “loving our neighbour as ourselves”. Many challenges: e.g. what does that mean when we hold different doctrinal views? what does it mean when we have different opinions about how to run a ministry? In churches many of the problems and conflicts are due to ungracious attitudes between Christians. Sometimes things are swept under the carpet – mere ‘niceness’ to one another and not wanting to really talk about and try to understand each others’ perspectives. At the end of the day, I guess it makes a lot of difference if we personally and continually experience God’s grace in our own lives first.
Lilian – Thanks for your encouragement. I was browsing an Asian Beacon today and guess who did I see? ð Paul Long and Rev. Wong Fong Yang was in the same picture.
I think very often we are tempted to sweep our differences under the carpet or are unable to (1) Make effort first to listen to the other (2) Understand the story behind the questions or answers we are articulating (3) Differentiate between tolerance and respect, and (4) offer graciousness before coming to an agreement.
Lots to learn in this area. One thing you highlighted is right on … we need to “personally and continually experience Gods grace in our own lives first.” ð