Showing Grace and Gratitude
Last week I gathered with a close group of colleagues and friends to discuss theology. We gather every year, choosing a topic that we want to know more about or something that affects our ministry. This year was no different, we chose a topic that we thought would be relevant, challenging and thought provoking…we chose humanity. The Doctrine of Humanity studies all of us as it relates to our life in and with Christ.
The reading was difficult and challenging. Not only because we were studying difficult theology, but because the topic was so personal. It required that we think internally about the sins and mistakes we make and how they keep us from knowing God more clearly, which no one really wants to do. This is until we were reminded that it is our sins and the confession of them that makes us know Christ’s gift of grace more clearly. The topic also required that we consider what makes us truly human: suffering, relationships, and our connections with the world around us. Our humanity puts in perspective our limits and our gifts. And in light of all that God has done for us, how are we to respond. But the most difficult was the discussions on how we live together in light of the current events.
What hit me so strongly was the ongoing theme of grace given from God and the gratitude we are to show in response. It is a simple idea with a huge impact on how we live our lives with God and each other. What was highlighted this past week was how little grace and gratitude we show each other in response to the most recent immigration issues. As we worked through our own humanity and how God sees us we were forced to discuss race, religion, age, education and social status.
While it wasn’t a surprise, it was still a difficult challenge to see how God doesn’t see any of those labels when He looks at each of us. According to Karl Barth, what God sees is a separation due to broken relationships and the need for grace. Grace needed when we put ourselves above God. Grace shown when we don’t treat each other with respect and equality. Grace required when we forget that the Holy Spirit uses the imperfect and broken people that we are to do His work. Grace shown when we turn to fear instead of trust in God.
The only response that is required to all of this grace is gratitude. The challenge to this way of living, from Karl Barth's perspective, is that the only way we can truly understand the amazing gift of grace is in gratitude. To be grateful in our short comings. To be grateful when we suffer physically, emotionally or spiritually. To be grateful in the midst of our fear. To be grateful when we make mistakes. To be grateful when things go right.
It is very humbling when you spend the week contemplating the relationship between God and us and each other as we watch our nation treat children, parents and neighbors without equality. When we segregate instead of see people through God’s eyes. Our group is politically diverse and our discussions about immigration varied. The issues are complicated and not unique to the United States. Every country has to work through its response to immigrants. I am not sure where you fall in your beliefs and feelings about immigration, but I don’t think it matters in God’s eyes. What matters in God’s eyes is that we treat each other with that same grace that He shows us.
This is a hot topic and one that could cause division, fear and anger among us as a community of believers. I know it is complicated, but I think that God asks us to show grace and to seek out the places of gratitude in the midst of this crisis. Our group had to ask ourselves, “How do we show grace to these families who have crossed the border seeking refuge?” “Where do we see places and people we can be grateful for?” “What is our responsibility?” “How do we see each other the way God sees us, as His beloved children?”
The question we all should ask ourselves is how will we respond individually and collectively with grace and gratitude to the current events? I am grateful to my colleagues who were willing to go to these hard places this past week and be challenged by God to live differently. My prayer is that in the midst of passionate arguments and discussions about these individuals and families, that we will remember to show grace and gratitude to and for each other.