a good measure of how much of true grace we understand is this: can we say something is terrible without feeling superior? and can we say something is amazing without feeling inferior?
A present problem, and it is a really difficult and damaging problem, is that in our culture we have almost completely lost the means of disagreeing with someone without demonizing them.
Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.
– Martin Luther
Not to be too detailed about the circumstances, but I was in the bathroom at a church (which was also home to a Christian school), when I looked up to see this:
“Stupid kids,” I said to myself. And just for a second I thought about getting out my own pen and adding an arrow and the words “or this either.” As I started to leave the truth really hit me. Walking away from the stain on the bathroom door wasn’t what Jesus would do. Nor would he just criticize the two misguided authors. I went to the paper towel dispenser, grabbed a handful of towels, wet them down and scrubbed the door clean. What would Jesus do? He’d fix something that wasn’t His fault. He’d do it quietly. He’d leave the door better than it was before He came.
Sometimes my wife will eat dessert for dinner. She calls it “using her calories.” She is always keeping track of how much she eats. She is a very disciplined eater. Dessert is well, dessert. It is special. It is sweet. Usually people eat it last. Parents use it to encourage children to eat “what’s good for you” so they can get it. Sometimes I hear Christians talking about God’s grace as if it was what we get for dessert; what we get after everything else is swallowed. Eat your peas and carrots. Obey the rules. Do the right thing and maybe you’ll get some sweet stuff. Grace is the main course of Christianity. It is everything, not the last thing. You don’t have to wait for it. You don’t have to watch what you eat or save your calories or be super disciplined. Grace isn’t the gifts God gives to good people, grace is the gift of God himself to all people who will accept him. And it is sweet. It is the best tasting stuff. Don’t wait for it, just take and eat.
Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Ps 34:8)
When a people loses touch with the land they lose touch with more than just geography, they lose touch with a fundamental principle of life: the principle of sowing and reaping. The ages brought us from agricultural society to industrial society, and now into information society. We’ve gone from first hand experience of reaping and sowing to second hand to third hand. Our distant ancestors were intimate with sowing and reaping, our recent ancestors lived in respect of it, but this age does not know or understand it. The implications are not just economic or political, but relational and spiritual as well. Once we forget that we must sow in order to reap, or that others must sow and reap in order for us to thrive, we have forgotten how to live at all. We don’t cultivate the ground – the earth, the communities, our own hearts any more. We begin to believe life “just happens,” and that abundance is a right of human existence. We expect to receive when we have done nothing to even prepare ourselves to receive, much less to sow something that someone else might receive. Relationships wither as people stop sowing into another person’s life. Marriages and industries, communities, economies, and nations cannot long survive and certainly do not prosper when the majority of us let go of the principle of sowing and reaping.
It takes courage to sow, but if you decide you are not going to do it you are contributing to the destruction of our world. A time is coming when enough of us will be far enough removed from the land and the principle of sowing and reaping that the land will die. Society will die. It will take a movement of people who sow fearlessly to save us. It will take a movement of people who teach others to cultivate real industry, real economies, real communities, real relationships. I believe that movement can best be fueled by a people who most would suspect of having the least motive for doing it; Christians. Why do Christians care about sowing and reaping in this world? Isn’t the whole gig about getting out of this mess alive and moving on to heaven? No it isn’t. Christianity is not about escaping this world and going to heaven, it is about cultivating this current ground we hold as servants of the Landowner who is surely coming. Christian doctrine is that yes, the faithful are going to be with God in heaven, but it is also that God is going to bring heaven down to earth. This is the closing act. Not disembodied spirits with clean hands stroking harps, but new bodies with new hands digging in renewed earth. Becoming a Christian is not an act of cowardly escapism, it is an act of courageous acceptance of the responsibility to dig in here and now and to sow for heaven’s sake.
First of all, I might have done better to write a post about why you should vote tomorrow, but honestly, I’m a bit tired of all the melodramatic angst filled mealy mouthed other worldly talk coming out of a lot of people about withholding their vote as a symbolic act. I don’t have time to address you people right now, so go and get a juice box while the grown ups talk.
I’m in Virginia and the most significant race we’re voting in tomorrow is for our next governor. Our last two governors are in the US Senate now, and one of them was a recent chairman of one of the two major political parties. Virginia is a significant player in national elections. The governor’s seat in my state is a key position in the national politics of the most powerful nation on earth. All that said, the candidates for that seat are nothing to write home to mom about. This is the Old Dominion. Washington, Jefferson, Madison…I could go on forever. Neither of the two people likely to win tomorrow will ever deserve mentioning in the same breath as those Virginians. The campaign is brutal and dirty. Unlike most, that doesn’t bother me. Negative ads are part of American politics and ALWAYS have been (if you think Jefferson was a political saint you are just sadly misinformed). Campaign ads, positive and negative are informative. They are useful in making a choice on who you will vote for.
And here is how to know who to vote for tomorrow in my book: realize that both (or all) candidates are seriously flawed. All of them in every election have been really broken people. They’ve done and said stupid things. They’ve made bad mistakes. They’ve kicked dogs and cussed. They’ve made decisions based on money and political gain. They have regrets. Both of them are really worse than the negative ads could ever convey. All the campaign contributions couldn’t pay for the length of negative ads that told the complete story of how despicable they really are. Get it? We are not electing saviors for thrones, we are electing sinners for a time. And the sinner I am going to support is the one who seems most likely to know they are a sinner and act accordingly. I am going to use my discernment to detect the faintest hint of humility. I am going to assume pride is there in all its destructiveness, so I won’t be astounded by it or discouraged about it. But I will listen for genuine lowliness of spirit. I’ve listened to these two men and their campaigns for long enough. I’m ready for the ads to quit invading all of my football games, ready to vote for the biggest loser – that is the only one of the two I have any hope will govern like my own master, Jesus. One of the two will always be worse in their own eyes than the other – that will be my candidate tomorrow and in every election. I pray that the eyes of our hearts may be open to see at least this much clearly: a mustard seed of self doubt in our candidate.