It’s interesting what people say or how they act when they are standing in line making small talk and discover you’re a pastor. “We’re all basically good people, and we just need to learn to accept each other.” That was a person’s conclusion to a conversation I had recently at the grocery store here in our town of 7,200. That comment seems harmless enough, don’t you think? However, there is an underlying problem or two.
“We’re all basically good people” – My family and I have found that our little town is full of good people! We can’t argue with the love and support we’ve experienced from our church and the community. Thank you! For many of our Bible-belt neighbors, doing good flows from their faith in Jesus Christ. Others would say that society, the rule of law, a healthy family or a good education lies at the heart of the good things that people do. If we only look at humanity, we can misunderstand good and evil and miss a chance to recognize God’s presence in our lives.
All that is good in the world comes from God. Remember the creation story? It was very good (Genesis 1:31). It is through prevenient grace that we see that same goodness flow from all corners of our community, just like the rain falls on saints and sinners alike. In Philippians 2 Paul challenges us to look to the needs of others and points to the example of Jesus. Pursuing Christlikeness for God’s glory is the example. If it is good, it begin and ends with Him. We don’t possess the capacity to create goodness on our own.
Back to the check-out line conversation. “We just need to learn to accept each other” – Yes. No. Wait! Accept?… what exactly does accepting mean? Some say accepting is synonymous with welcoming. Other say it means tolerating. As Christians we are called to be welcoming, compassionate and hospitable, but I’m not sure that’s what we mean.
The problem arises when we accept that people are just the way they are. Oh well. Nothing that can change that. That type of thinking robs the gospel message of all its hope! We must accept people where they are, but love them enough not to leave them there.
My life would’ve been a disaster if everyone just accepted the fact that I drank too much alcohol, lost my temper, and looked at inappropriate things on the internet. What if people responded to my struggles with, “Oh well. He’s just having a good time. He’s really angry, but he’ll cool down. Guys are like that. He’s not hurting anyone.”
Here we also find grace, but this is justifying grace. In our state of sin and failure, you and I have been met with forgiveness through Jesus Christ. Our relationship with our creator is restored (See Romans 5:8, 2 Corinthians 5:19)! If we take God’s gift seriously, we won’t tolerate drunkenness, rage, or lust because they fracture relationships, with our Heavenly Father and each other.
Christian living is putting faith and love into action as a response to God’s grace. It’s not tolerating lies and accepting people’s brokenness. I am a broken sinner too. I make mistakes, but I need a grace-filled community who will join me in pursuing Christlikeness. If you see me doing good, that’s because of God. Give Him the glory.
I wish I had been able to add some of these thoughts to that supermarket conversation. I’d like a mulligan on that one. But praise the Lord that God’s grace is there, even when I fail to recognize it or point it out to others.
Keep looking above and loving beyond.