Sometimes, it seems, despite vigor and energy and what we would like to think as pure intent, we harm others with the way we portray the gospel.
Last night as I walked up to my gate, my roommate was talking to an elderly, bearded man, both of them leaning up against the cold, black railing that runs around the front and side of our house. Greeting them, and being introduced, we continue on talking about a variety of conversations: church history, why we’re in Uptown, different meals in the community. This man lives in a retirement home about three doors down from us, and we come to find out that a few Moody (my alma malter) students come and do a bit of worship there each week during the school year. Oh really? I prepare myself for the blow.
Politely, but with sincerity and honesty, our neighbor described the meetings, and how in particular, they were well, pushy about their theology. Oh dear. He joked about the young freshman arriving at their community home with their savior attitudes and more-than-slightly egotistical approach to preaching and teaching. Oh my.
As I listened, God filled me with more compassion than I could ever muster up on my own. Compassion and great sympathy for both parties in this story. Though shame was bubbling up in my heart, I understood that I was to be counted in this story, too. I am the prideful bearer of good news. A little less than I used to be, but it takes time to squelch out all the mischievous reasons we do things and figure out the true, beautiful, pure motive behind it all.
“Thank you for having so much grace with them.” I said in response.
This man could have been offended and bitter, especially at his age and the wealth of knowledge and wisdom he has gained through life and faith. However, beside being slightly off put, he seemed to also take a little joy in these young students who were making slight fools of themselves without knowing it.
I think they really don’t know that this isn’t necessarily the right way to do things. They don’t know yet that listening is so much more powerful than speaking. They’ll learn, as I am still learning myself.
Parting ways with our neighbor, after an invitation to dinner at our house this weekend, all I could feel in my heart was thankfulness.
Thankful that I live here. Thankful that I live in a place that I can invite an old, bearded neighbor we’ve met once to dinner in our home. Thankful that I don’t know it all and never will. Thankful for those older and wiser that have grace on us younger fools. Thankful for a God who works through our badly bruised and broken hearts and our selfish ways, to reveal a good and just and perfect Son offering forgiveness and love.