Right now it feels like the only thing we can agree on is that no one agrees on anything. I’ve started developing a fear of talking about anything except the weather because I don’t know how I will be perceived. “What side are you on about that? Am I judging? Am I being judged?”
Everyone has their own ideas and opinions about the best way to fix the issues of our time. Even within the church, I’ve caught myself thinking, “If they love Jesus, then they have to believe [whatever I think] about [current topic].” But the Bible is clear the only solution is Jesus (John 24:6). So we need to ask ourselves: How does Jesus solve for /x/? How does Jesus solve for racial reconciliation? How does Jesus solve for vaccine mandates? How does Jesus solve for homelessness, abortion, refugees, sexual identity, voting, education, wealth gap, healthcare, global warming (oh no, I can’t even talk about the weather anymore!)…?
Jesus looks at the person in front of Him and sees their humanity. He sees whose image they bear (Genesis 1:26). He sees their worth and purpose (Ephesians 2:9). And He treats them in kind. He listens. He loves. He corrects. He teaches.
It’s not our job to save people. That’s for the Holy Spirit. It’s our job to introduce people to Jesus. It’s our job to be the hands and feet. It’s our job to see the humanity in others.
It goes beyond extending grace to the person who cut you off in traffic or made a snide remark to you at work or even a person in political power or celebrity with a microphone. It goes deep. It pierces your heart to those who have wounded you or your loved ones personally.
This Lenten season, our pastor has been taking a meticulous look at Philippians 2 with careful emphasis on verse 5: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. (NIV)” He has been encouraging us to be like-minded with Jesus.
One Sunday, he asked us to identify the things actively fighting against having the same mind as Christ. He asked us to participate in a “listening prayer” and ask God to bring a person to mind who might be creating conflict with our ability to have the same mind as Christ. As I did so, He brought to mind a person who was causing deep pain and damage within my family. If we’re talking about the earthly definition of justice, I had every right to have a hard heart toward this person. I heard God ask me to pray for him. I heard God ask me to begin to change my heart toward him. When I vehemently protested, I heard Him say “Jesus died for him, too.”
Perhaps, upon hearing my story a name has floated to the forefront of your mind. Maybe it’s a person you have no intention of changing your heart toward. Experiment with me. Say it out loud: Jesus died for [insert name] too.
How did that make you feel? To say “I felt uncomfortable is an understatement,” is an understatement for me. I felt anger. I felt betrayal that God would ask me to consider changing my heart toward him because I wanted justice, not grace. But as the days have gone by, my attitude has shifted. My heart has softened. And even though I desperately want this situation to be resolved and this person to no longer be a part of our lives, I can do so from a place of love – recognizing his humanity, worth, and purpose – instead of from a place of rage and bitterness.
Do you know how powerful this is? Hate turned compassion. It has softened my heart toward a person I least thought (or even wanted) to feel compassion toward and has made me actively pray for his good.
And let me tell you. Once you start looking at every person you encounter as an image-bearer of God, as one who has value and purpose, as one who needs Jesus just as much as you need Jesus, you can’t help but show grace. You can’t help but feel compassion. This, friends, is how you change the world. This is how you show Jesus to others. Grace upon grace upon grace.
Writer’s Note: Grace and compassion do not require you to return to a relationship that has been harmful to you in the past. It is a personal heart change. It is a posture and attitude toward a person that does not require a change in behavior on their end, so sometimes it is not possible or safe to repair a relationship fully if at all. You can still have grace and compassion without reconciliation.