We want to put people into boxes. We become offended or turned off by something they say or do and label them. We want it to be simple; he’s good and she’s bad, she’s got a really good heart and well, he’s just plain selfish. But the thing is, life just doesn’t work that way. No one person’s deeds are all good nor all bad. And yet we are quick to judge, quick to suspect their motives. And once we’ve put someone or a group of people in that “not so good” or not trustworthy or “less spiritual” category we are tempted to see all they do through that lens. Even the good they do is questionable.
It’s sad that we do this. We do it with ourselves too. We want our motives and actions to be pure and loving. We examine them and label them. We describe what we do as being “in the spirit” or “in the flesh.” And while there is merit in examining our motives and and it’s important to examine our consciences there is a danger in seeing things in black and white.
You see we are made of flesh and spirit. Seldom are the motives behind what we do entirely pure. This is why we need grace. We can do wonderful things in the name and love of Jesus and even those deeds can be tainted by self-love. But God’s grace takes those deeds of love offered by faith and redeems them and us. This is the glory and wonder of living in God’s system of grace instead of the system of the law. No longer must our deeds be perfect in order to be accepted by God. Instead, our deeds, born of the spirit and tainted by our flesh, are accepted by Father and bring glory to him despite their imperfections. This by no means gives us permission to cease striving for perfect love. “What shall we say then, shall we continue to sin so that grace may abound. Certainly not…” (Romans 6:1). No, instead this system of grace should motivate us all the more to love like Jesus and extend this same grace to others.
We desperately need to see others through this same lens of grace. Our brothers and sisters in Christ will not always have the same agenda as we do. Our family members will not love us perfectly. Ministry and political leaders will not lead perfectly. Like you and me they are made of flesh and spirit. Even their best attempts to love “in the spirit” will probably be tainted by their own self-interest and self-love. They too are in the process of learning how to love.
We can’t write off individuals or groups of people simply because we encounter that self-interest and self-love. We can’t declare their efforts to lead, to follow, to love and befriend or to work for the Kingdom of God as null and void simply because we come in contact with their flesh. No, instead we are called to live in a system of grace. We are called to receive one another and our deeds in a spirit of love; we are called to see the image and love of Jesus in one another offering unmerited favor to each other despite our imperfect attempts to live in unity, love, holiness and peace.
What individuals or groups of people have you written off lately?
How is God calling you to extend grace so you can walk in unity and peace?