Thursday, December 8, 2016

What to Bring to the Christmas Party? How About Grace?

Grace is when God drives our words, actions and responses, not the hurt, pre-occupation or irritation one may be experiencing at the moment.

I recently cut myself off from this grace when I spoke from a place of hurt to a person I had no business sharing my hurt with. I realized a week later that I had not kept a “tight rein” on my tongue (James 1:26), and thus missed God’s call to exhibit grace.

We can wait forever for hurts and slights to heal and go away, deciding only then to respond as God would have us; or we can respond as God would have us no matter what we are feeling.

Going into this season of many-faceted social gatherings—often involving alcohol—many words will be exchanged, innuendoes let loose, and misunderstandings birthed. We Christians must remember that the world without Christ (even though they celebrate the holiday that is His alone), will not act as a Christian.

So that leaves it up to us, who have been born again in Christ, to live and speak as He would have us. Which means to respond His way in all situations, and with all people. In His grace people cannot turn us into doormats; instead we become welcome mats to Him by His grace in us.

His grace replaces the frustration we feel toward others with His compassion, and our perspective with His perspective.

All the affirmation and love we’ve sought or thought we needed from certain other people is supplied by the Triune God of our Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That frees us from all offense, real or imagined. And it frees us to love others in God's power, not ours. Now that is living in joy!

In the knowledge of the marvelous truth of His acceptance of us as His children, we can confidently go forth into a crowded room of people. Already filled to the brim with God-sourced love, we have no space left—nor do we make way for—insults, slights, political and ideological differences, past histories, and future—often unrealistic—hopes for relationships.

Instead, schooled by God, we choose to acknowledge, in the midst of other people, that much of what is said in conversations can be taken or heard out of context, spoken without thinking, or is derived from a place of another person’s deep pain and anger.

We do well to admit that what we often hear is not what the other person said or meant.

And when we do hear what is actually said, and it is meant to be mean-spirited, and verbal insults directly or indirectly dished-out do pierce, we continue to respond or remain silent in grace (but rightly place graceful boundaries around all future encounters with this person).

Which means we don’t enable their sin, participate in it or condone it, whether it is directed at us or someone else. We remain calmly steadfast in our obedience to God, not man or self, in how we respond and think about it later.

Christmas seems to be an especially trying time due to its specificity. We clearly remember Christmases of the past, good and bad, and what or who made them good and bad.

We might be pining for a person no longer in our life. We might be dreading the obligation to visit yet again with someone who has managed to be the fly in the ointment of many past Christmases. We might despise the artificiality of trying to be a close-knit bunch. We might loathe a corporate event where most people are just bent on getting drunk.

Whatever it is, grace can overcome. It starts with an attitude of trust and commitment to God. And as we adopt His way, we find we actually enjoy ourselves. As we jettison a worldly, self-centered view, we enter that gathering of people filled only with the good promises and presence of God in us.

That is enough. That is freedom. That is what makes merry. That is joy.

 copyright Barb Harwood

“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. 

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in the mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” James 1:12-25

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