Chapter 14: Practicing Dignity
Recently, I have had a lot of life-shaping experiences, some of which I will be sharing over the next few days. For starters, I must confess that I am being changed. God is opening my eyes to reveal that all too often, we in the middle-class American Church fail at justice, grace, compassion, and mercy simply because we make choices to remain comfortable and do what seems easy to us. Our family and friend circles are too small and our visions are too short, so we cast small nets to fish for lost souls, that’s if we casts nets at all.
I have failed to intentionally love my literal neighbors. I sometimes fail to cast wide nets for the souls that I do know are lost. And at the end of the day, those failures are a result of me being self-absorbed and not thinking of others above myself (Phil. 2:3-5). The reality is that my actions are insufficient because my love is deficient. I believe that we must all come to this humble reality if we indeed desire change and want to live as credible witnesses for the whole gospel of Jesus Christ.
When we seek comfort in our lives as Christians, we are not simply considering our physical or financial well-being. We are also making efforts to avoid pain and suffering. And yet, pain and suffering are necessarily defining marks in our Christian journey. There are things that we learn in the valleys of life that we simply cannot learn when standing on the mountain top because we are not as dependent, attentive, or prayerful. The truth is that Christ, himself, learned obedience through the things that he suffered while on earth (Heb. 5:7-9). And we must acknowledge that “both pain and grace are used by God to change our hearts, to extend our capacity to love, even when the price of such love may be high (pg. 191).” If we are loving as Christ intended, the price will always be high (John 15:13).
Our compassion, mercy and justice are true and life-seeking insofar as they are a reflection of the heart of God. Left to our own devices, human beings feebly and anemically reflect the heart of God. Unless God’s heart heals, transforms and empowers us, our default setting will be to respond to injustice in terms that reflect the personal and sociological facts of our lives, possibly with little or no sense of sharing the passion of God to seek justice. The call to follow Jesus is in part the call to practice living in the heat of God (pg. 191).
What does it mean to live in the heart of God? What does that practically look like in your life? For me, I know that I must literally walk next door and across the street to freely share the love of Jesus that I have freely received. It means that I need to be in a community of believers who will regularly challenge me, hold me accountable, and are not content to simply tend to our own homes. Its means that I need to learn to dwell in love, grace and unity with fellow believers when we do not share the same points of view. Its means that I must walk in humility and regularly consider the character that God wants to cultivate in me and the character that he wants displays in Christian community. A healthy Christian community can and should challenge and encourage us to live fully as united people of God. The psalmist wrote, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity (133:1).”
Corporate and individual worship practices matter for many reasons, but for no more important reason than this. As the apostle Paul put it, ‘I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’ (Rom 12:1). Placing ourselves regularly in contexts where we deliberately seek God’s transforming, renewing grace is a vital spiritual exercise…Jesus also modeled with the disciples that our transformation involves stepping into actual lives and relationships with people in need (pg. 192-193).
The questions that I am wrestling with today is: How is God calling me to live my life as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God? And am I regularly putting myself in contexts where I deliberately seek God’s transforming and renewing grace? For me to respond positively to those two questions, I know that I must follow the example of Jesus and step into the actual lives and relationships of people in need, who remind me of my need. I must choose to do what is uncomfortable.
Catch Up on the Discussion:
Introduction: Dangerous Act and a Heart Like the Grinch
Chapter 1: Stop Rubbernecking, It’s Dangerous
Chapter 2: WE See No Evil
Chapter 3: Injustice and the Problem of Misperceiving
Chapter 4: Learning to See
Chapter 5: Looking in the Mirror
Chapter 6: God Help Us
Chapter 7: Choosing to Name
Chapter 8: Why Naming Matters
Chapter 9: The Power of a Name
Chapter 10: Distorted Names
Chapter 11: Changing Names
Chapter 12: Living and Bankrupt
Chapter 13: Hoarding the Grace of God