Tuesday, April 10, 2012

living grace in community

"By this, all men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:35

I had a friend that I put a lot of time into getting to know.  We were very different on many things, but we shared a common concern about justice issues.  So we first got to know each other talking about those things.  After a while, we started talking about other things, life things.  We talked about dating, morality, spirituality... basically all the important stuff.

When I first met him, he was very, very hostile toward any discussion of religion and spirituality.  He wasn't from my super-religious town, and would vent about how rude it was when someone in the grocery store asked him where he went to church.  He couldn't understand how that was anyone's business.

Over a long time, I was able to share things about my faith with him.  When we were talking about my life and I was asking for advice, I'd mention that I was thinking about this or that related to my spiritual or moral beliefs.  When he asked for advice, I'd mention what I might do or the questions I might think about as I was making the same decision.  Many times those things included consideration of the spiritual.  I was never quite sure how much these conversations were making an impact, if any at all. 

But one day, maybe 2-3 years after we'd become friends, I got a facebook message from him.  He messaged me, wanting me to know what an impact I was having on his life.  He mentioned the idea of grace, and he mentioned my relationship with my two roommates.  He said that watching us interact was one of the most impactful things he'd experienced.

So what was it that began the work of softening him toward the gospel?  It wasn't me in a vacuum; it wasn't me loving him; it wasn't even my great conversations with him about life and God and everything in between.  It was his opportunity to watch my little community relate to one another with love and grace, even in the hard times.  And let me tell you, he'd seen us in some pretty hard times.

I was really struck by that message from my friend.  It was so clear to me in that moment how important it is for us to be connected with other believers and to be inviting those who don't know Jesus to see and experience those relationships first hand.  There is something powerful about living in relationships in a graceful way - not just showing grace to our friends who don't know Jesus, but showing grace and love to each other.  There is no witness as powerful as that.
Who are the people who make up your Christian community?  Are your friends who don't know Jesus seeing relationships filled with love and grace? Are you inviting them into your Christian community?

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