Grace First

               When I was a young adult I knew more than I do now, or rather I was at least more arrogant about what I thought I knew. An example is the theory I developed on how I would raise my kids. Now years later having been through raising a couple ADHD children, let’s just say my theories went out the window.

               I’ve been reading lately about thinking about how our lives are based within systems and how we are not independent. When we are young we put together our own tight knit packages of thinking, but I believe life experience tweaks those packages more than we would ever expect. The earlier systems of my earlier life set me up for polarized thinking, basically making my view right and the person with another opinion wrong. Now at this age I am more likely to think that perhaps the other position has some merit somewhere, or I at least internally debate with myself over what motivates the other individual to have a different opinion.

               How do we best change someone else’s opinion or direction? An example I use is that of Jesus with the Samaritan woman when He says, “You are right when you say you have no husband.” Jesus totally disarmed the woman in that He affirms her words without any sense of judgment. These two people were on opposite sides in terms of lifestyle and ideologies, but His first words to her were devoid of a posture of accusation that would assume any sense of personal superiority. He showed respect by His words at a time when she had likely not experienced respect from others in a long time. Yes, there was a theological discussion that followed, but I think it was the beginning of their discussion where the door was opened for positive interaction. It was a ‘grace first’ approach. Jesus did not start with ‘judgment first’. He did not start with “I’m right and you are wrong” … though, in fact, we can see that the ‘grace first’ discussion did end up there.

               ‘Being right’ needs to be postured in the midst of ‘doing right’. Having tact is not an option. It behoves us all to have lots of it, not as a response to control outcomes, but in order to display grace and opportunity for others to experience God.

               This woman was indeed caught in systems resulting from poor choices, life circumstance, cultural bias, personal needs, and financial pressures. If any one of these parts is looked at as ‘the problem’ or ‘the reason’ for her life’s outcome, then a solution will never come. The answer is indeed always ‘Jesus’. Jesus is the One who brings harmony or perspective in the midst of all the individual circumstances around us, even the negative ones. Adding Jesus into our system approach is the needed ingredient.

               Today as I write there is conflict in Iraq, Nigeria, Ukraine, Korea, Sudan, and Afghanistan, which is just to hit some of the major international situations. If these conflicts are viewed as coming from a single weakness, resolution will never come. The reasons are multiple in each of these situations but discussions leading to positive resolve will not happen until people pull back from conversation styles that polarize (the ‘I’m right; you’re wrong’ thinking). It is not wars won on the battlefield that matter, but matters of the heart matter. Grace is always attractive to the heart.

               If we believe in Jesus, let us act like He did … even loving our enemies. Let us start with our relationships within our families and within our churches. Let us become those who learn to speak with grace first.