Agents of Grace

Last weekend my husband and I went away with another couple for a mountain retreat. We had a wonderful time- ate delicious food, did a little Scotch tasting and the best of all- engaged in deep and meaningful conversation.

While we really do not need any “starter” conversations with this couple, we did bring along a video- Letters to the Exiles, which has 7 short videos with discussion questions to ponder. The videos are so thought provoking. Partly because it has a quirky vibe to the filming: there are all sorts of gems and nuggets of hidden treasures and meanings, almost a grown-up version of “I spy”. But mostly because the content has us thinking about our faith and our purpose in the world in a different way.

One of the segments that spoke to me was about justice in the world: justice is hospitality. Justice is all about how we treat one another. “We don’t give dignity to the other person, we see the dignity inside them.” That set me back on my heels. Even though I try and not portray it, I know that when I see someone less fortunate than myself (and I realize that even using that term “less fortunate than myself” exemplifies the issue) I am thinking, “poor such and such.” My reaction may not be through eyes of compassion but through eyes of comparison: they are less than me- whether the comparison is emotional, physical, or spiritual. Yet for me to be a part of justice in the world, I need to see each and every person with the dignity he deserves because we all are made in God’s image.

When I do so, I see the frailty, humanity, and the potential. I also recognize the log in my own eye. It is when I remove it that I begin to see people as God sees them. I am moved towards compassion and understanding and away from comparison and pride.

I wonder if we truly grasped that concept, where would the hatred and misunderstanding go?

After the Pittsburgh shooting this weekend, I heard someone talk about people coming together to push back those deviants to the basements and their lonely lives. I certainly understand the sentiment. However, I think that would only keep the hatred bubbling up. Jesus called us to pray for those who persecute us and I believe that it is only through God’s power that we can. Anything short of prayer is just simmering hatred.

I am looking forward to watching the movie “The Best of Enemies” when it is released next year. Watch the trailer here. The movie tells “the true story of the unlikely relationship between Ann Atwater, an outspoken civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader. During the racially charged summer of 1971, Atwater and Ellis come together to co-chair a community summit on the desegregation of schools in Durham, N.C.” What is somewhat alluded to in the trailer is the faith of the woman. I am sure that the change in Ellis was due to the many prayers that Atwater and her fellow congregants lifted. His heart change is nothing less than a miracle.

What about you? Have you seen any videos or read any books that have been thought provoking for you? What was your reaction to the shootings of this past week? As I write this, there are too many recent shootings to mention in addition to the PA one. That fact alone should cause us to pause and take a long look at where we are headed as a society.

In the Letters to the Exiles, it reminds us that, as followers of Christ we might live in this world but we are not of it. We are to be agents of God’s grace in a broken world. A daunting task in today’s society but necessary if we are to survive one another.