Monday, April 25, 2016

focus on the grace...

I like a good debate. A good debate gets people thinking. It makes them dig deep and really focus on what they think about a topic and why they think that way. It gets you to truly listen to someone who is one a different side of the issue and lets you hear their point of view. To have a good debate, you have to understand your opponent. You have to be able to see where they are coming from so that you can present logical, well thought out arguments in the hopes of getting the other person to start seeing your side of the issue just a little bit more. A good debate challenges those involved, both the people actually debating and those who are simply observing the debate.

The problem is, right now we aren't seeing good debates.

Instead, our world is full of people whose idea of debate is pointing fingers, slinging insults, and pouring hatred into already tense situations. People get on facebook to "debate" an issue with people they know nothing about, yet it seems like those "debates" always turn into insult competitions. We are presented with the new fad in the online world: open letters. These open letters are typically nothing more than a way to bash someone, usually someone who did nothing other than hold a different opinion than the person writing the letter.

Stop using hatred as an excuse for more hatred.

Stop pouring gasoline on the fire, or we're going to watch our entire Republic burn to the ground.

You will never be able to change someone's opinion by telling them how stupid, hateful, uninformed, illogical, bigoted, old-fashioned, immoral--or whatever other word you want to put in there--that their thoughts are. You won't draw someone to your side by arguing against their character. You won't convince someone that you're right and they are wrong by making your entire argument a personal attack against their integrity, beliefs, or choices.

So here's my own "open letter": As a follower of Christ, you are called to something higher. You are called to step above the fray, to be different. Matthew 5:13-15 says,
"You, beloved, are the salt of the earth.
But if salt becomes bland and loses its saltiness,
can anything make it salty again?
No. It is useless.
It is tossed out, thrown away, or trampled.
And you, beloved, are the light of the world.
A city built on a hilltop cannot be hidden.
Similarly it would be silly to light a lamp and hide it under a bowl.
When someone lights a lamp,
she puts it on a table or a desk or a chair,
and the light illumines the entire house.
You are like that illuminating light. 
Let your light shine everywhere you go,
that you may illumine creation,
so men and women everywhere may see your good actions,
may see creation at its fullest,
may see your devotion to Me,
and may turn and praise your Father in heaven because of it."

So stop stooping to the level of those around you. Stop using their hatred as an excuse to be hateful. Instead, be the light that you are called to be in this dark world. Make your actions and words a testament to the One you follow, so that the people around you will start wondering just what it is that makes you different.

And don't think you get away from here without hearing something from Peter:

"So get yourselves ready,
prepare your minds to act,
control yourselves,
and look forward in hope as you focus on the grace
that comes when Jesus the Anointed returns
and is completely revealed to you.
Be like obedient children
as you put aside the desires you used to pursue
when you didn't know better.
Since the One who called you is holy,
be holy in all you do.
For the Scripture says,
'You are to be hold, for I am holy.'
If you call on the Father who judges everyone
without partiality according to their actions,
then you should live in reverence and awe
while you live out the days of your exile."
(I Peter 1:13-17)

Be different. Don't be like those who don't know better. Be more--be what God has called you to be. Be an example of His love to a fallen world.

That's not to say that we shouldn't debate. Jesus had debates on multiple occasions, and He didn't back down. He wasn't afraid to say the hard things that people disagreed with, and He didn't sugar coat things to make them easier to swallow. He did, however, make sure that in all things, He was pointing others to the Father. He made sure that grace was the focus of all He said and did, the kind of crazy grace that God pours out on us--imperfect people--despite everything we do that should drive Him away.

Speak the truth. Don't back down from taking a stand for what God has said is right and wrong. But in doing so, don't forget that you are representing God. Don't forget that when people look at you, they are supposed to be seeing a reflection of Him. Be salt and light--both of which can be overwhelming if not used the right way.

focus on the holy in all you do...

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