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Friday, December 2, 2016

The Spirit of Truth in a Post-Truth World

    “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
-John 14:15-17 (NIV)


Every year, Oxford Dictionaries designates a “word of the year.” This year’s is an interesting one: post-truth. The dictionary defines it as referring to “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
    “Post-truth” is the word of the year because Oxford is acknowledging something about the world we live in now. To make your case and win agreement in this time, you have to push buttons. You have to provoke, inflame, and arouse, not so much with facts and figures, but by tapping in to fear, anger, grievance. And what taps into those passions will be considered true. A cynic might say that we’re not really interested in truth.
    But it’s not that simple, I think. All you have to do is see how people react when they’re lied to, and you have to recognize that truth still matters. The problem is deeper: We don’t know how to recognize truth. What’s happened, I think, is not that people don’t care about truth. It’s that our world has become so much larger, and the voices we hear so much more diverse, that competing versions of truth slip and intertwine and collide around us in ways that would have been impossible a generation or two ago. And with so many competing opinions of truth in world, we see little hope of untangling it.
    So we choose to find clarity in feeling, in our personal belief systems, in the little shortcuts and crutches that help us navigate the confusion of so many “truths” trying to shout each other down. We adopt as truth what feels right. What works for us. We call “truth” what answers our questions or scratches our itches.
    That’s why we don’t listen to each other well. That’s why we can end up in shouting matches with the people we love most over what is true. That’s why our latest election has left us so divided, why social media is filled with angst and argument, why universities that once were driven by a search for knowledge and understanding now offer safe spaces where a student’s personal understanding of truth won’t be challenged.  When what you call truth and what I call truth seem so incompatible, it’s no wonder we have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye on, well, anything. And when we demonize each other and question each others’ characters and motives instead of trying to understand how truth can take on different shapes to different people, it’s no wonder we can literally or figuratively go to war.
    No wonder so many of us would like to think of ourselves as “post-truth.” It’s easier. Less confrontational.
    So what does it mean, in a world that considers itself “post-truth,” that Jesus promises that his followers will receive “the Spirit of truth” to be with us forever?
    For one thing, it means that God is about truth, that whatever our world may think of the subject, however human beings might doubt the existence of some objective truth, for God truth is not an outdated notion. God is about truth, and intends for human beings to at least begin to grasp it.
    It means that this truth is outside myself. I don’t invent it, and it isn’t supposed to be for my benefit. If truth lives in me, it’s because I have received it, nothing more. Truth isn’t given as a textbook for me to memorize and understand. It’s not a badge of honor I receive for maintaining the proper orthodoxy. If the Spirit of truth lives in me, it’s only because God has reorganized and renovated my heart to make room for it.
    This means, in turn, that truth isn't a weapon given to me to serve my own ends. It isn’t for the defense of my way of life or my vision of America, or to give advantage to those most like me, or to reinforce my own prejudices. In fact, if I find truth at all comfortable, it’s probably because what I’m calling truth is simply my own feelings and preconceptions talking. Truth is an equal-opportunity offender, and if it isn’t doing a number on my own heart then it probably isn’t truth at all. Even if I’m using God’s name on it. While we sometimes seem to think that being Christians means we get to speak authoritatively about everything, truth  doesn't work like that. You don’t need to take everyone’s view of truth at face value. But don't mistake your own assumptions and prejudices for unvarnished truth, either.
    It means, too, that truth is relational. It has its origin in the relationship between God and Jesus, Father and Son. It’s received relationally, as Jesus gives it to those who live with him. And as we live in relationship with others, in justice and righteousness, we discover its nuances. If you’re white, for instance, don’t say you know the truth about racism unless you know the experience of people who have suffered it. Don’t pretend you know the truth about the poor without being friends with and walking with some folks who are poor. Don’t write off Muslims as extremists without first getting to know some Muslims. You get the point, right? Truth works in relationship. In good, right relationships, with him and with those around you, the Spirit of God will lead you into truth. And it will probably take a while, and subject you to your own internal struggles.  
    “Truth” isn’t exactly synonymous with “facts,” either. They’re just close enough that we can make that dangerous assumption. Facts, in our world, can be and are easily manipulated by those with an agenda. Truth isn’t necessarily known in the recitation of facts. Truth — the Spirit of truth that Jesus promised — is known in him, and is known in relationship with those around us as we treat them with the love and justice and grace that he showed. Facts require no love, no grace, no concern, no involvement. Truth, by definition, does.   
    But don’t be surprised when the world doesn’t genuflect to you. “The world cannot accept” the Spirit of truth, says Jesus, “because it neither sees him nor knows him.” Fact is, your job is not to convince all your Facebook friends or Twitter followers that you know the truth and they don’t, like some God-ordained conspiracy theorist out to expose all their misconceptions. Remember, it’s God’s work to reveal truth. It’s ours to proclaim the good news of Jesus, in word and action, and invite those with whom we have connections to submerge and even lose their own “truths” in his. But that isn’t an easy message, and sometimes people will react the way, well, the way you and I often react when our own understandings of truth are threatened: with defensiveness, anger, and outright hostility. Don’t be shocked, and don’t react in kind.
    Hear me, now: none of this is to disparage truth, or to drink in our “post-truth” culture’s assumption that objective truth is nothing but a narrative used by the powerful to control the powerless. Fact is, the One who embodied truth did not use it for his own advantage. And that’s who we follow.
    We’re not post-truth, not really. Those who want to follow Jesus cannot be. We can, though, and should, acknowledge the damage done in our world by those who have come in the name of some truth or the other. And we must shine with the light of the Spirit of truth, given by the One who laid down his life for the world to those who would follow in his footsteps.  


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

So You Want to be a Peacemaker?

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. 
-Matthew 5:9 (NIV)


So the election is over. Your candidate won, or your candidate lost, or maybe you didn't care one way or the other. Whatever the case, you’ve probably noticed that while the election is over, the fear, anger, resentment, and division in our country is most certainly not over. There are demonstrations, protests, and violence in the name of one candidate or the other, or in objection to one candidate or the other. There is fear and misunderstanding provoked by President-Elect Trump’s harsher language and more controversial promises during the campaign. But bring that up, and his supporters are quick to bring up Clinton’s email scandal, or Benghazi, or her foundation. But you’re a Christian, and whether your candidate won or lost, or you just don’t care, you want to do something to help heal the division. But you aren’t sure what to do.
     What follows are some suggestions as to how Christians can be a peacemaking influence in a divisive time in our nation.
     First, remember to distinguish between voter and candidate. That friend you’ve loved for twenty years who voted for Clinton? He isn’t dishonest and unethical and greedy, as she’s been painted as being. Even if she’s as bad as some people say she is, your friend isn't her, and hasn’t suddenly become her by virtue of voting for her. That person you’ve worked with and grown to care for, and who voted for Trump? She didn’t vote that way because she’s suddenly become racist, homophobic, xenophobic, and misogynistic. Even if Trump is what some of his words and actions indicate he might be,  your colleague isn't him. People vote the way they vote for all sorts of reasons, and few agree with everything a candidate stands for. Try understanding the reasons that people you know voted the way they voted. Try hearing them and having conversations instead of vilifying and villainizing. You may not come to agree with them, but that’s OK. By listening to their reasons and trying to sympathize, you may be able to make peace with their choice. Or, at least, make peace with them.
     Second, remember to win and lose like grownups. Children can strut around pounding their chests when they win and throw tantrums when they lose. Adults don’t get that privilege. Every election, there are winners and losers — and both must learn to show grace and magnanimity. Trump supporters — take the win with class. There’s no reason to rub it in the faces of those who said he didn’t have a chance. There’s certainly no reason to give our children reason to treat others with disrespect. Your candidate now has to get into the difficulties of governing, and making the divide in our country wider with incendiary words and actions won’t make it easier for him.
     Clinton supporters, same goes for you: take the loss with dignity. Saying #notmypresident may feel a little better, but you have to know that, yes, he is. You don’t have to like it, and you should hold him accountable for what he says and does while in office. But he is the President of all Americans, and, trust me, we want him to be successful at that. 

     That does not mean, though, that the demonstrations and protests have to stop. We have to remember that many people are afraid and angry right now. And not for no reason. Our President-elect has made some reprehensible statements. (He has, that’s not debatable.) Immigrants, women, minorities, and other segments of society that he has hurt and offended and disrespected are feeling understandably scared, insecure, and lost. Some are having to reassure their children that they won’t be deported in the middle of the night (while dealing with their own fears that they may be). Some are having to explain to their daughters what their next President meant when he said this or that, and why it isn’t OK. Demonstration and protest is an American right, at least as important as the rights to a free press or gun ownership or freedom of religion. It makes those in power nervous, of course — but it’s supposed to. Understanding the hurt and fury that many people are feeling right now, and choosing to respond with grace and love, will go a long way toward healing and reconciliation. Dismissing those who have legitimate fears and questions as “crybabies” will not. Choose to act with love, in person and on social media.   
     Of course, both sides of the divide must remember that there is no excuse for violence. Those of us who follow the One who didn’t lift a hand in resistance when he was falsely accused, beaten, and unjustly executed should never commit, approve or encourage violence. We must not allow those who do to go unchallenged. We must demand that our leaders speak unequivocally against it, and that their actions speak just as unequivocally and unambiguously. We respond to evil with love, to insult with grace, to aggression with gentleness. 
     We must remember that there are brothers and sisters in Christ who voted for the other candidate. In most every church, yours included, there are those who voted the other way from you. They were not less your family in the Lord on November 9th than they were on November 7th. The Holy Spirit creates unity in the church, but it’s up to us to make every effort to maintain it by continually making peace. Go hug that brother or sister you know (or suspect) may have voted differently. Tell them you love them. Give them the respect and honor of listening to them, caring about their burdens, and praying for them, whether you agree with their political stance or not. Remember, God has strong feelings about those who destroy his church with selfishness and a party spirit.
     Frank, the guy who runs the pizza place in our neighborhood we order from pretty often, said something pretty profound the other night. “Everybody’s talking about this election,” he said, hands covered with flour, spreading pepperoni and cheese over a pie. “I keep saying, whoever wins, I’m-a still gonna be makin’ pizzas.” Thanks, Frank. Good to remember. 
     However you feel about the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election, if you’re a believer in Jesus your job is still the same. You’re gonna be makin’ peace: peace between people, and peace between people and God. You’re gonna be proclaiming in word and action God’s love for the world, and his desire to reconcile us to himself in Jesus. And you’re gonna be working for reconciliation in our world between people who are estranged, between tyrant and tyrannized, haves and have-nots, alien and citizen, white and minority. 
     May we be daughters and sons of our peace-making God.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Not From This World

    Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my followers would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here. (John 18:36, NRSV)


And just like that, the revolution began. No one imagined it. When he first appeared on the scene, no one believed he could overturn the status quo. No one would have thought that he was the one to make right what was wrong. He was an outsider, unfamiliar with political power and dismissive of those who wield it. 
     So they didn’t pay much attention to him. When he spoke, the educated scoffed. Until people started listening to him and started talking about putting him in power. Then they tried to refute him, tried to trap him with questions, even tried to shout him down. Many of his countrymen turned their backs on him. Those in power used his words to try to make him out to be a threat to the privileged and powerful. 
     And then they crucified him.
     Wait — who did you think I was talking about?
     Oh, that. Yes, there was an election last night. And yes, it was one of the most divisive in recent memory. (By the way, aren’t they always “one of the most divisive in recent history”? Does that suggest that, in between elections, those we elect might be doing something wrong?) At last count, 59,600,000 and some odd Americans are somewhere on the continuum from disappointed to suicidal, while 59,400,000 and some odd are somewhere between pleased and ecstatic. This is because we tend to think our politicians are going to solve all our problems. Especially our Presidents — we blame them for all our woes, and we anoint their successors with the oil of all our expectations.
     And, OK, that’s fine. Except if you believe in Jesus, you believe in a different government. That’s, like, all Jesus talked about — the Kingdom of God. In the Kingdom he talked about, God poured out his grace and healing. The first would be last, and the last, first. The meek would inherit the earth. Those who grieve would be comforted, those who hunger for righteousness would be filled. This kingdom would not be for those who paid lip service to empty religion while snuggling in the laps of the powers-that-be. It would be for those who truly put their faith in God by putting their lives in his hands. 
     Here’s what we American Christians forget, every election season: on that Friday when Jesus hung bleeding from a rough beam of wood, anyone would have said that he had lost the political battle. 
     God, of course, said otherwise on Sunday morning.
     We American Christians forget that in our worries and squabbling over political power and who has it. Our behavior turns toward the gutter whenever we feel threatened. We post on Facebook and Twitter and question the character and motives and even the faith of those with whom we disagree. And in doing so, we bear witness to the fact that we believe in the gospel of America more than we believe in the gospel of Jesus. 

     Please listen to me: historically, nothing has been more fatal to the church than political power. Persecution hasn’t hurt us. Neither has marginalization. We have not been overcome by the proximity of rival religions or the encroachment of secularism. We’ve shaken off sexual revolutions and the teaching of evolution in our schools and the legalizing of marijuana and gay marriage. What has proven, if not fatal, then at least irrecoverably debilitating, is the accumulation of political power.
     That’s because power has changed us. Remember, Jesus died. And he didn’t ask his followers to defend him, or avenge him, or fight those we perceive to be his enemies. He told us to die, too.
     When you get power, though, it won’t let you die. It won’t let you give yourself in service to your neighbors, or give you room to love those who hate you, or care for the oppressed, or feed the hungry, or heal the sick, or love the lost. It demands all your attention to keep it once you have it. And this makes the church into something it never was supposed to be. Instead of dying, we kill. Instead of returning love for hate, we turn up the vitriol. Instead of forgiving, we avenge. Instead of proclaiming and living out the values of God’s kingdom, we end up perpetually shoring up our own.
     Here’s the problem, I think: too many of us believe that the most important work we can do is fight for our vision of America. So we look desperately for candidates who we think might, however remotely, share our vision. And we pull back the covers and hop into bed with them. 
      In our country, this even has the effect of dividing the church along party lines. 
     Making America — anything — is not the church’s job. Our job is to give the world an alternative: to conquer death through long-suffering love; to overcome evil with good; to feed our enemies when they are hungry; to enjoy sex rightly ordered for the goods of human intimacy and the bearing of children within committed monogamous relationships; to share our money and our stuff and our time generously; to let our yes be yes and our no be no; to care for the widows, orphans, and foreigners; to practice hospitality; and so on.
     America was never a “Christian nation.” There is no state of perfection to which we can return her. To suggest otherwise understands neither American history nor orthodox Christianity. America has, in some ways, been better than other empires. In some ways we’ve been much worse. If Jesus died instead of fighting to make things turn out “right,” then you can bet we’re called to do the same. Not to win, or to scorch the earth in losing, but to give ourselves as he did.
     So, whether your candidate won or lost — well, he or she wasn’t really your candidate, anyway. Not if your faith is in the kingdom that Jesus announced and for which he died. Your job hasn’t changed. Go and care for the unborn through adoption, foster care, and support for single moms. Deal with immigration by befriending an immigrant, or visiting an ICE deportation facility. Care for the poor by sharing what you have. Address health care by looking out for the sick. In all things, proclaim that your hope, and the energy to do what you do, come from the Kingdom of God which has come in Jesus, and is coming in power.
     That’ll work in every election, win or lose. Just don’t play the game. Vote, if think you should or must, but don’t imagine that salvation hinges on electing the right candidate. 
     Whether you’re discouraged or excited today, you should know better than that.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Training

    Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
-1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Living Translation)


So maybe you don’t know this unless you live in Chicago, but the Cubs are in the World Series this year for the first time since, oh, about the time man was discovering fire.
    The Cubs have an outfielder named Kyle Schwarber. He was already something of a Windy City folk hero for some key homers he hit in last year’s postseason. But, this year, in the third game of the season, he tore two ligaments in his left knee in a collision with center fielder Dexter Fowler. Schwarber underwent surgery a few days later and missed the rest of the season.
    Until last week, when the Cubs won the National League pennant, and the news broke that Schwarber was playing in a couple of minor league games, partially to ascertain his fitness to play in the World Series. And when game one of the Series rolled around this past Tuesday, Schwarber was in the lineup as designated hitter.
    That’s pretty good, but what happened next was even better. In game one, he doubled and walked. In game 2, he collected two hits, a walk, and two RBI. Just an amazing performance for a guy who hasn’t played major league baseball since April.
    A radio guy said this after his game one performance: “It’s amazing how hitters can roll out of bed and hit.” Except that isn’t what happened.
    When Schwarber was cleared by his doctors, he asked the Cubs to assign him to the Arizona Fall League so he could see some live pitching. He played two games there while the Cubs won the National League championship. Then, over the weekend, he set the pitching machine to throw its most difficult breaking balls. And then he started swinging. In fact, he swung at over 1,300 pitches, trying to get his timing back and get ready to see Major League pitching. Blisters broke out on his hands and fingers. He taped them up and kept swinging.
    You get the point: to say he rolled out of bed and got a hit in the World Series is to miss the hard work he put in. Not to mention the months of hard work he put in rehabbing that surgically repaired left knee.
     I sometimes think we believe that we can just roll out of bed and be spiritual people, that spiritual growth shouldn’t require hard work. Maybe we get that idea because we know that we’re saved only through God’s grace, and that he sends his Spirit to us through Jesus, and not because of anything we’ve done. That’s truth, of course. God loved us “while we were still sinners.” Whatever level of spirituality we might attain, it will still be God’s love and mercy and not out own accomplishment that saves us.
    Or maybe we've come to believe that it’s the job of the people who plan and lead our worship services to make us grow spiritually, that it depends on them discovering the right mix of songs, prayers, and sermon to make us appropriately teary, shivery, and goose-bumpy. That feeling “good” (however that’s defined) when you leave church is spirituality.
    If we think that it’s supposed to be easy, that we should just be able to roll out of bed as spiritual people, then we’re not living in reality. It’s like thinking you can binge on cheeseburgers and birthday cake and then wake up the next morning to hit a Corey Kluber 2-seamer. Almost every aspect of the world we live in pushes against a spiritual life. Our preoccupation with image, our worship of the things that we can build and earn and own and experience, our elevation of sensation and the immediate gratification of our every whim over sober-mindedness and taking a long-term view of things — there’s not much room for spirit there. There isn't much space to walk by the Spirit when the flesh has commandeered the bass drum and is enthusiastically pounding out the beat to which we move.  
   If we think spirituality should be easy, then what do we do with Paul, who talked about it in terms familiar to anyone who’s ever sweated in a gym to lose a few pounds or to get ready for a game. “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should,” he wrote. And if he did, why do we think we shouldn’t have to?
     Interesting, isn’t it, that to Paul the world spiritual didn’t mean not physical. Maybe that’s part of our problem. We think spirituality has to do with the non-physical part of ourselves. Spirituality is very physical, though. It has to do with where we go and what we say and what we do. If service is spiritual, then spirituality is physical. If worship is spiritual, then spirituality is physical. Spirituality isn’t just about what we think about or believe, or how we feel at a given moment. It’s also about what we train ourselves to do.
    Being spiritual means being led by the Spirit of God. That’s where training comes in. Our first impulses, the words that fly most easily off the tongue, the most intense feelings we have, the drives that want to tell us exactly what we need to do: they might not be of the Spirit. Prayer isn’t physically easy for most of us. Serving others when we’d rather be comfortable at home doesn’t come easily. And so, we too have to discipline our bodies to do what they should.
    So don’t kid yourself: spirituality won’t come easy all the time. It didn’t for Paul. It didn’t even for Jesus. Don’t be surprised or discouraged when it doesn’t for you. Most of the time, if you’re in Scripture and in prayer and with the church, you’ll know what you should do. The challenge is to make yourself do it, especially when you don’t want to. That’s how you train yourself for spirituality.
    The church isn’t the place where we go to be spiritual. It’s the gym where we train ourselves to be spiritual in our offices, our homes, our neighborhoods. Where we help each other train. Spirituality can he hard, but we aren’t left to pursue it alone. The church is there to help us. And our Lord is too.
    Do you find being spiritual is hard work. Sometimes seems harder than it should? Welcome to the club.
    Let’s tape up our blisters and keep swinging.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Table of Grace

“If God says something is acceptable, don’t say it isn’t”
-Acts 10:15 (The Message)


    Grace is great to experience. It’s wonderfully liberating to know that God forgives us and accepts us just as we are. It’s thrilling to realize that our sins don’t make us too vile for God to love, and that he loves us enough to wear flesh and carry a cross and enter a tomb to save us. It’s a blessing to know that we are not judged on the basis of our faults. It frees us to forget the past and push on toward the future that God has promised us.
    It’s wonderful to experience grace from another person, too. You know what I mean if you’ve experienced the forgiveness of an offended friend, the unconditional love of a spouse, or the admiring gaze of a child who thinks you can do no wrong. Another human being can give us no greater blessing than the assurance that they love us in spite of our frailties, that they believe in us in spite of our failures, and that they don’t judge us on the basis of faults.
    Grace is wonderful to talk about. Everyone loves John 3:16. The spark of the Reformation was Martin Luther’s rediscovery that we don’t have to lift ourselves to heaven with our own bootstraps. Christians throughout the ages have rejoiced in the Bible’s insistence that Jesus came to save the wicked, not congratulate the righteous. And the church has long benefited from reminders that we are to be instruments of grace to the poor and undeserving of our world.
    Yes, grace is inspiring to talk about and wonderful to experience.
    Giving it, however, is another story.
    To show mercy, forgiveness, generosity, and acceptance to someone who you’d normally cross the street to avoid is difficult. The difficulty of it was driven home to me once in a conversation with an Afro-American brother in Christ. We were discussing the state of race relations in the church in our city, and he gave me an insight into the problem. Talking about his pre-Christian life, he said to me very matter-of-factly, “I would just as soon have seen a white man’s head where his feet were.” At least he owned up to his struggle. I have a hard time even doing that.
    Maybe you find yourself struggling with prejudice toward one race or another. Maybe it’s contempt for the poor that prevents you from showing God’s grace toward them. Maybe your moral outrage over sin obscures your love for sinners. Maybe your sectarian dogma won’t allow you to reach beyond your own circle to find brothers and sisters in Christ.
    Or maybe it’s more personal. You have trouble showing forgiveness to the wife that’s hurt you. You’re consumed with bitterness for the parents who failed you. You’re full of criticism for the church that’s let you down. You’re angry with the friend that’s disappointed you, or the person who’s used you.
    Don’t deny it, now. Go ahead and own up to it. There are people to whom showing grace seems distasteful. You can think up all kinds of reasons to justify it, but only one really explains it. You don’t like those people, and it galls you that God could love them just as they are.
    Well, you aren’t alone. Grace, quite frankly, is too big for all of us. We all run up against people who seem undeserving of the love of God. For Peter, it was the Gentiles. In his experience, God’s people had always been the Jews. Being right with God was defined by such things as circumcision, the keeping of the Law, and worship in the temple. It went without saying, then, that God’s grace was only extended to them. Certainly not to pagans.
    For us, it might be people who don’t go to church, or who don’t believe in God, or who flaunt their sexuality or their hedonism or their selfishness. Maybe it’s immigrants we don’t care for; maybe it’s people who don’t care for immigrants. Maybe it’s a particular economic group or political party. “Surely God hates them as much as I do,” we tell ourselves. Because it rationalizes the prejudices we already hold.
    Peter had his thinking straightened out over lunch, from a menu that was completely unacceptable according to Jewish food laws. “Have something to eat,” said a voice. Peter, no doubt thinking it was some kind of test, said, “No way.” It was indeed a test, and Peter flunked. “If God says something is acceptable, Peter, then who are you to say it isn’t?”
    But God wasn’t really interested in getting Peter to change his eating habits. So as soon as Peter had his preconceptions challenged, God put a Gentile right in his path. He had the chance to try out this new, broader definition of grace immediately on a Roman army officer named Cornelius. And it sounds like Peter got the idea. He said of Cornelius and his family, “If God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
    I’m guessing God will challenge you, too. I’m betting that if you’ll seek his heart, like Peter was doing, your definition of grace will be stretched, too. I imagine that, one by one, God will start to pick at the walls that keep you from offering his grace to that person or this person. And likely, he’ll do it in you just like he did it in Peter. He’ll put you face to face with one of the people that you struggle to love, and challenge you to love him.
    You’ll make mistakes. Peter did. Given a little pressure from others who shared his old prejudice, he found himself sitting at the “Jews-only” table. It took some pretty strong words by a guy named Paul to make him see that he was rebuilding the walls Jesus had torn down.
    Own up to your prejudices, admit the walls in your heart, and go along with God’s work of tearing them down. Seek opportunities to serve exactly the people who you resist serving. Otherwise, you’ll stubbornly refuse to hold out grace to those you don’t deem acceptable, forgetting that God could have legitimately put the same label on you.
    Come to the table of grace. You’ll be amazed at who you’ll find yourself dining with.

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