Anger or Grace?

Warning… semi-rant spoiler alert!

A long time ago I knew a woman who had a very different way of viewing the world from me.  We often talked about our conflicting values but, surprise surprise, we actually liked one another.  (And still do.)  I remember on one occasion her saying something like this:  “Do you know what your problem is?!”  (Actually my problems are legion.)  “You are an idealist!  You want to see the best in people and if you can’t see the best you make excuses for why they are not who they should be.”  Truthfully and sadly… that guy is gone.  Something to do with age, maturity, various experiences (some of them not so good)…  Oh, I still have smatterings of that old ideology but not nearly what I once had.  That being said, I do have high expectations for those who claim to know Christ.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not a hypocrite.  I have high expectations for myself as well, and I often fall short to my continued regret and sorrow.  The desires for Godliness are still there ripping me apart as I also struggle with the “old man.”  You know, the broken sinful one. (Romans 6:6 “We know that our old man was crucified with him so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.”) So please do not read this essay as a condemnation of those who do not have their lives all together as I do because, as Paul said in 1 Timothy 1 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.  I guess if Paul can admit to his short comings… well…

Let me also make it clear that I am writing to those of you who claim Jesus as your Lord.  Maybe you use different language to describe your faith but in the end… well… it’s about Lordship.  And, in particular, who is yours?  I have little expectation for non-believers other than continued self-centeredness.  When light shines through them, it’s all “gravy.”  I find myself saddened by the anger, vitriol, cynicism, and constant haranguing of “Christians” who do not agree with others on a variety of items whether they be political, theological, topical, etc.  What should we “Christians” be known as in this country in the 21st century?  Are we the “people of the issues?”  Are we “the religious Democrats?”  Are we the “religious Republicans?”  Are we the “religious independents?”  Are we the “Christian Pro-lifers?”  Are we the Christian Pro-choicers?”  Are we the Christian “Obama people?”  Are we the Christian “Trump people?”

Much of what I see on Social media these days by self-proclaimed “Christians” is anything but “Christian.”  Their comments are agenda driven.  They are surely not Jesus driven.  I see no “grace,” or “love,” or “kindness.”   I have not seen one person remind us to pray for those on the opposite side of issues… not prayers for “illness or assassination” as have been abominably mentioned for over 8 years now, but Godly prayers for health, blessed lives, for their families, for wisdom, for their faith….  Nope, I guess we are the “people of the issues”, not “the people of prayer.”  What ever happened to grace, love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness?  These things have somehow gotten lost in our desire to take a stand on political or social concerns.  And I would add that for too many, they have gotten lost in our need to vent our inner anger and rage that likely have more to do with our own sinfulness than the defense of “issues.”  The world needs to hear a whole lot more about “grace and love” and a whole lot less from those who can’t keep their angry pie holes closed.  Just saying.  (Whew!  Good thing I just thought that and didn’t actually write it down.)

I know… someone is going to say, “Well, Jesus got angry.  He even tore up the temple!  Not to mention the fact that he humiliated the religious leaders of the day on numerous occasions.  So, there is Biblical precedent for the expression of ‘righteous anger’.”  Can we be clear on this?  First, no doubt Jesus did those things but they are greatly outweighed by His teachings on love.  Second keep in mind that his outrage is almost without exception directed toward religious leaders who were leading people astray, not toward political types.  Use whatever rationale you want for your anger toward your political enemies, but don’t drag Jesus into it.  This is on you, all on you.  (Well okay you can drag some Old Testament prophets into it if you want.  But keep in mind those prophets were talking to God’s “chosen people” what we might think of as The Church, not to secular politicians.)

I think I’ll conclude with this.  Should we have values that cause us to take on issues?  Of course!  Absolutely!  Without a doubt!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great German theologian and pastor before and during WW2, was a pacifist when the War began.  He eventually came to the conclusion however, that sometimes evil is so great that there are no options but to stand against it and destroy it.  In time he became part of a plan to assassinate Hitler.  But you also need to know that he came to these conclusions and actions with much soul searching, grief and sadness.  I see little soul searching, grief or sadness by many as they spew their rants to friends, family and on the faceless internet.  I should add that Bonhoeffer was vindictively killed by the Nazis as they saw the war coming to an end.

If your hope is to bring about change consider this challenge:

Take a week (or a month if you dare) and send a message (direct or otherwise) to family, friends, “Facebook friends” and anyone else you choose.  The message is this (use your own words).  I am about the love and grace of Jesus Christ for all.”  You are not allowed “buts,” or explanatory prefaces.  Just love and grace.  No other messages… only this one.

I bet some of you just can’t bring yourself to do it.  The Body of Christ is diminished because that.



3 thoughts on “Anger or Grace?

  1. I have done almost everything you recommended, Bill. I stopped accessing Facebook or any social media because I was unable to remain Christlike while reading that stuff. Not quite what you had in mind but it works for me other than keeping the love of Christ in mind. John

  2. Thank you Bill this is great!!! I do try to be positive on FB. May you and Ellen have a great week. I know you are getting anxious for your first grandchild very soon. Love, Richard and Constance

  3. I would love to chat with you about this, Bill. I have a different perspective. I think the modern church is in peril, and that we are being called to a dramatically more challenging course of action than what most churches advocate, one embodied by Christ himself. I’d love to talk about it with you. I think we need a Bonhoeffer-informed church, willing to relinquish its desire for comforts and safety and fears for something far more compelling and Godly.

    Christopher Fay
    Executive Director
    303 S. Maple Avenue
    Falls Church, VA 22046
    (703) 237-2035 x 118

    Homestretch has earned many honors including the Governor’s Best Housing Program in Virginia Award, the Blue Diamond Award from the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce for Outstanding NonProfit, and awards from Leadership Fairfax, Volunteer Fairfax, and the Washington Post; and Homestretch has been selected three times for inclusion in the Catalogue for Philanthropy. Homestretch is a member of the United Way and Combined Federal Campaign.

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