Tag Archives: Gentleness

Grace in the Journey: Given and Received

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
Romans 15:1-2 (NIV)

Annoying to be around. That was the bottom line. Abrasive, abrupt, and usually off in left field in most matters. I can still remember the silly arguments and petty details that occupied this person’s thoughts and conversation at, seemingly, all times. It was hard not to roll my eyes and want to head for the nearest exit when the mouth opened and the judgmental, legalistic rhetoric began to flow. Nevertheless, this person was a sincere follower of Jesus. Truly, despite all the annoyance. And, this person was a part of my local community of Jesus’ followers.

Sometimes the Message is ill-served by the way early scholars divided it into chapters and verses. One of the best study tools I’ve experienced is to read the different books and letters without all the chapter breaks and verse references. It’s amazing what you see differently. When I’m reading a chapter-a-day, I can easily forget that today’s chapter is connected to yesterday’s chapter as well as being a lead-in to tomorrow’s chapter. When I read it in prescribed, daily chunks it’s easy to lose context.

Today’s chapter is like that. In yesterday’s chapter Paul addressed the conflicts that can arise because of differences in culture, background, heritage, and traditions. People from different tribes have all sorts of differing, non-essential rules about food, clothing, special days, rituals, and the like. These aren’t necessarily bad things, but they’re by no means essential to being a follower of Jesus.

The first two verses of today’s chapter are really a summation of yesterday’s chapter. Paul ends this conversation by saying that those believers who have the grace and maturity to see that all of these rules, customs and traditions don’t matter to God, should bear with those who do. We could argue about it, get self-righteous about it, and then watch the emotions escalate as the conversation sinks into anger, name calling, discord, division, and even to hatred. Paul urges the mature believer to graciously channel the fruit of Holy Spirit towards those who are stuck in their traditions and rituals: love, patience, kindness, gentleness, and self-control.

In my memory banks this morning are a number of fellow believers, like the one I described at the top of this post, who I’ve shared part of my journey with in this or that community. I’m seeing their faces and laughing to myself at some of the memories.

In the quiet I am also reminded of my own immaturity, particularly in the early years of my spiritual journey. I confess that I have my own annoying quirks and have, through the years, embraced my own share of non-essential, petty thoughts as well as silly moral or religious causes. I have very specific memories of me being the source of rolling eyes and bit tongues. Now, in hindsight, I can appreciate the forbearance my elders and peers showed me in loving, kind, patient, and gentle fashion. Thank you for that, if you’re reading this.

I’m on this journey with every other person who is on their own respective journey. Each of us are having our own conversation with Life. Grace (undeserved and unearned favor) is required. Sometimes it’s required that we receive it. Sometimes it’s required that we give it. It’s the only way we’ll successfully reach our destination together and progress to that which is beyond.

Chapter-a-Day Zechariah 11

Adventures in Babysitting
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And then I got tired of the sheep and said, “I’ve had it with you—no more shepherding from me. If you die, you die; if you’re attacked, you’re attacked. Whoever survives can eat what’s left.” Zechariah 11:9 (MSG)

Back in my college days, when I would do just about any odd job for a few bucks, my buddy Spike told me about a week long job he’d picked up babysitting. One denominational organization was having their national meeting in Ames and they needed people to help with babysitting and day care for all the Pastor’s Kids (PKs) and Missionary Kids (MKs) while the adults when to various sessions during the day.

Being the only guys in the pool of child care workers, Spike and I got the two toughest groups in the lot. I was given responsibility for the 11-12 year old boys. Spike got the 9-10 year old boys. So for the next week we were responsible for the naughtiest, rowdiest, most cantakerous bunch of foul-mouthed brats I’ve ever experienced (and that’s putting it nicely).

If there was a rule, these boys would break it. If you told them to do one thing, they’d do the other just to spite you. Some of my clearest memories were of riding on the bus getting pelted from spit wads fired from the kazoos they’d been given by some dear, ignorant woman who thought the kazoos a “safe way to keep them entertained on the bus.” Then there was the field trip to Living History Farms when the boys found a crab apple tree and decided to band together and play attack Tom with rotten apples. Early in the week I was tired and frustrated. By mid-week I was cranky and short-tempered. By the end of the week I was downright homicidal. It was only my dire need for college money that kept me showing up each morning.

When I read in today’s chapter about the shepherd getting downright sick of the sheep, I think about my little flock of 11 and 12 year-old PKs. Then I think about Jesus who said He was “The Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.” How frustrated must God be with this rebellious sheep who is so prone to wander. Yes, I look back with sarcastic and critical eye at those rowdy bunch of boys, but how hypocritical am I being, really? Can’t the Good Shepherd get just as frustrated with me?

Today, I’m mindful of the ways I must be a frustrating person for God to Shepherd, and I’m thankful for a Good Shepherd who would leave the entire flock to find one lost sheep.

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