We headed toward the front and slipped into the seats behind my friend, to await Rachel Held Evans’ keynote talk. My friend’s husband turned around to me and said, “You have made such a difference to my wife. Your blog and your love have restored her faith.” Deeply touched, I patted his arm and said, “Thank you!” I sat back and shared with my husband those very kind words.
After the talk was over, my friend’s husband turned around to me again and said, “I’m sorry but I thought you were Rachel Held Evans.” Oh. Hahaha! Well, there it is. I love Rachel and I was indeed very glad to know she had such an impact on my friend!
Rachel spoke at the GCN Conference on “What’s so Annoying About Grace?” — and we hung on her every word. Loved it. Not only do we all need grace, we all need to extend grace. I feel happy to extend grace to the disenfranchised, to those who know their own humanity and seek balm for their wounded heart. I can relate to being shut out.
But I have trouble extending grace to the religious who use God’s name as a weapon, those who tell others they’ve missed the mark with God. Those are the ones I have the most trouble being kind to. I’d rather tell them why they’re wrong, because it’s so plain. I don’t even want them to pay, I just want them to stop.
In fact, I feel justified because Jesus takes serious issue with those who use God’s name as a weapon. It seems that every time he turns around, he is defending regular people from religious leaders. He is, in fact, showing us that yes, there is absolutely a time for that.
But it must be Jesus speaking through me, not just me. When Jesus’ grace speaks to someone’s flesh, it has power. When my flesh comes against someone else’s flesh, it’s just carnage. As the Bible tells us, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” Whether it’s our own anger at our kids, our spouses, even at those who condemn us or those we love, it never produces God’s love.
But here’s something even deeper: I have found that ungraciousness does not suit me as a follower of Jesus. It doesn’t fit with who he recreated me to be. Even ranting at another driver (who can’t hear me) does not suit me, it still costs me my peace. The peace of God, which is beyond understanding, is what guards my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. It is God’s peace that suits me as this new creation, and God’s peace is what calls me to extend God’s love to my neighbor… which is everyone.
Rachel said so beautifully, “Grace doesn’t come naturally to me… and I’m wondering if that’s the point.” Me too, Rachel. I think the point is realizing our deep, desperate need for God.
Click here to read Rachel’s beautiful blog post about the GCN Conference.