Monday, December 13, 2004

Just What I Needed 

We were at a foster home where we had been hanging out, playing soccer, and talking with the kids. I was talking with one of the older guys when he brought up the war in Iraq, how it’s all about oil, how bad and greedy Americans are, etcetera, etcetera. My usual approach in the face of an inflammatory topic of conversation is to try to change the subject, gracefully if possible, but with him I actually confronted a few of his statements because I figured he was just parroting what he had heard from adults and teachers and on tv.

This incident stuck with me and has bothered me for lots of reasons. Being an American living overseas during this moment in global politics isn’t fun and its always painful for me to hear my country maligned. But I’m also bothered by how emotionally I react inside to criticism or to people who disagree with me; I don’t like how that incident got under my skin and months later still puts a bad taste in my mouth. And I’m not comfortable with the implications of my “conflict-avoidant” modus operandi. I’m not wanting to talk politics all the time, however I know that by steering clear of some topics, or even some people, I’m letting my fear, of my discomfort and my anger, shut the door on something God might want to do in me and or in them.

That’s why a sermon “Receptive Grace” by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, was just what I needed to hear. It provides simple but very insightful answers to the question “How should I relate to people with whom I deeply differ, even people whose views or actions might be truly offensive to me?”

We all know that intolerance isn’t the answer, but Dr. Keller showed me that simple “tolerance” as it is touted today -which doesn’t evaluate the other person negatively but neither does it enter into relationship with them- is a shallow counterfeit of what God modeled, and calls us to: having the strength of character and conscience to enter into relationship with them even though we still believe they are wrong.

I liked it so much that I listened to it again and took notes, then I turned those notes into a summary outline that you can download and read {click here). I don’t know if it will translate without hearing the sermon but I hope so. (You can purchase the sermon at Redeemer’s web site, just put “receptive grace” in the search field for individual sermons on the “buy sermons” page.)

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