I have been walking for a couple months now. Some weeks better than others, however for a few weeks I was walking between 5-10 miles a day.
It was a commitment.
It took time out of my day and called for sacrificing other things.
I walked so I would feel better, and so I could lose some weight. After about 5 weeks of walking consistently I was at a house with a scale (our scale is broken). I thought I would see how I was progressing.
I had gained 6 pounds.
I didn’t walk the rest of that week out of irritation and frustration.
This week I am starting again…realizing again that some things simply take time and commitment. They take discipline and a long view.
The walk of the Christian is the same.
I have always loved the book title from Eugene Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. The reality of our pursuing Christ, of our Christian walk of discipleship, is that it is a long obedience. Sometimes there are dramatic results which happen quickly, but far more often the results of the Spirit working in our lives play out over long lengths of time.
When we are struck by a circumstance which used to excite in us anger or frustration and we react instead with compassion and patience, we realize the work that has been happening. Prayer and reading Scripture, worship and teaching and community have been at work in our character.
I don’t think any of us could imagine a circumstance that would allow for a reaction of anger and frustration as much as the shooting in Charleston. In the midst of a Biblestudy to be met with something so evil.
The forgiveness that was evidenced, immediately, by the family members and congregation in Charleston happened because that is their character. The reaction of forgiveness could not have simply been manufactured that evening in an attempt to do what they thought was correct. They reacted with grace, with great emotion, and with forgiveness because they have pursued the One who makes that possible. In the moment they showed the result of years of walking in prayer and the reality of a God who is both Just and Compassionate.
I don’t know that I could have reacted so quickly with such grace. There is still deep mourning, deep grieving. That does not overshadow the grace that has been so on display.
The result? A community which has joined together in their mourning. No rioting, no violence. Grace. Still calling for justice, yet so marked by grace.
The rest of us? We are grasping at ways to react. Banning flags, ridding ourselves of guns. Hugging people we might not otherwise hug. Listening with a more compassionate ear and trying to hear through the anger and the frustration.
We want to stop this from happening again. We want to somehow shore up these people with compassion…and sometimes the best way we find to do that is to shout angrily against the evil, or even the symbols of the evil.
We have to do something. The evil in our midst demands a reaction.
We can only react with forgiveness and grace when we are so immersed in the language of Gospel that it comes naturally. Otherwise we are left to our insufficient fixes.
There are some things we can do physically and immediately to move forward. We can dialog and we can listen, and we can care deeply. Not cliche, not simplistic…we can truly deeply care. More than our agenda or what makes us uncomfortable, we can listen with Gospel reality.
Gospel which calls for reconciliation and grace and true peace. Gospel which calls for caring for others more deeply than ourselves. Gospel which proclaims hope in the midst of confusion. Gospel reality which proclaims a God who intervenes and transforms.
it is good to debate and to think through our stands on all the issues involved. Let’s follow the example of those who are most intimately impacted, and who have earned to have a louder voice, reacting with grace and forgiveness. Debating with grace and compassion.
Taking down a flag will not solve evil.
Flying a flag will not secure freedom.
Transformation by the Gospel will prepare us for the next moment we are shocked and we hope to react in a way that proclaims we are Children of the Savior.
Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.
2 Corinthians 3:16-18 The Message