Grace is our great Christian gem stone. It is the most precious word of all. God loves us as we are and actually doesn’t just talk about his love but comes to earth and lives and dies and is resurrected to reach out unconditionally to those he is at enmity with. Amazing indeed!
Sometimes I fear that we have diminished grace to a one dimensional idea. Oh it is so much more. It is God’s welcome into relationship and salvation. Yet it is so much bigger than that. It is the fuel that fills us with the fruit of the Spirit and strengthens us to follow Jesus. It is also the very oxygen of the Kingdom of God, the way we act towards our neighbour or enemy.
In the innocent naivety of my faith in God, and love for all thing grace, I dare to ask that our politicians might act in a more gracious way towards one another. Even more particularly those who attend Churches on a Sunday and profess faith in Christ.
I have shared wherever I have had the opportunity that the Christian doctrine of grace is the only hope to our country’s future. People will need the other worldly alternative imagining of Jesus radical mad idea of grace to deal with our engrained sectarianism deepened over centuries of graceless actions towards one another.
Ian Paisley Jr’s good wishes towards Martin McGuinness on BBC’s The View recently and his suggestion that politicians need to move on has been welcomed by the public. Oh conspiracy theories abound because we actually cannot accept what we most like to see - grace - but whatever his motivation it is the talk of the town.
Is there a lesson in this for all our politicians that we want more of such interruptions of the norm. Grace is an interrupter. Against the run of play. That is where grace has its tender but robust punch! It breaks into how it is with how it could be.
Politicians we need more of it. The public will waken up to such a difference. There are 45% of voters out there to be tapped. Reach out to them by giving yourselves the respect so that you might win the respect of the public instead of the disrespect they have for you right now. You work hard enough to deserve a better press! Be brave! Show humility, vulnerability, grace, humanity and hope!
Let me, however, come back to myself and the rest of us. It is easy to point fingers at politicians and blame them for all our ills. I have been most convinced recently that God’s shalom will not drip down from the hill at Stormont but needs to creep up that hill. Let’s give a mandate to our MLAs to be brave in generous deliberating.
I was researching a sermon recently and came across an article written by my good friend Rev David Montgomery. Monty wrote, “I encountered someone who, though very public in Christian ministry and vocal in their evangelical belief, was being frighteningly ungracious, aggressive and slanderous towards another believer. A wise and respected older minister told me not to worry, that this was characteristic of the person in question who, he said seriously, 'simply needed to be converted’!
Perhaps I need converted. Perhaps we all need converted. Converted from a sectarian way of life that has consistently hurt our neighbours on this island to become Jesus disciples, full of God’s grace to bring healing and rid our country of hurt.
The fruit of God’s Spirit as laid out in Galatians 5 will hurt no one whereas the fruit of Godless living laid out a few verses before will. Let us pray that well known Psalm 139 prayer: -
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Please Lord that the Spirit’s searching might lead to grace, grace in all its many dimensions, particularly in the tone of how we speak to one another for the healing, not hurting, of our land.