Diversity is Not Just a Snowflake!

Colossians 3:11 “…where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor snowflake3uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all and in all.”

I wonder if we Christians have understood just how radical the forming of new relationships through God’s outpoured grace is? God is not just going about saving souls. His heart from the beginning of time was to establish a new kind of family from every ethnicity; love bonds the world had never before witnessed. In Paul’s letter to the believers in Colossae he writes about God’s family on earth which he calls the body of Christ. He proudly proclaims that the uncultured and uncouth barbarians belonged together in the same family with the wealthy intellectually driven Greeks! He mentions uncircumcised gentiles and Jews being invited to sit at the same table. Slaves, especially, were to be treated with respect and dignity, as family. To most this was preposterous. To Paul this equality was the fulfilment of God’s original strategy.

snowNowhere do we see it more clearly than in Jesus dealings with his own earthly family. Remember the answer given by Jesus when told his concerned mother and brothers wanted a word outside with him? ‘And who are my mother and my brothers,’ he said? His next phrase was about to radically realign relationships on our planet. ‘And looking around at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, “Here are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:34)  This was cataclysmic. With those few words Jesus extended the family beyond Abraham and bloodlines! Jesus pulls us all in and throws out the divisive narrative of difference.

To take it further you might remember the time that Jesus appeared after his resurrection to a couple of friends. They didn’t even recognise Him! The account says He appeared to them in a different form to teach them to recognise Him by the spirit and not by appearance. Jesus also spoke of coming to us in the form of a stranger and complimented our willingness to take him in. (Matthew 25:35)  The Lord comes to us through those who are as different to us as foreigners, but like Paul reminds, He is all and in all.

snowflake4Here’s a simple truth for you to embrace today: The universe tends toward diversity! God loves diversity so much that he made every last one of us different. God knows we need the uniqueness and freshness that each one brings to us. We too, like God, are free to love the creativity that diversity brings. Instead of buttressing ourselves within our own lines of sameness and like-usness, we are permitted, even encouraged, to step out and learn from each other. Be open and expectant! That is such a different posture from the closed stance we were taught which is based on fear. Next time you are in a church or meeting that is not your own look around and say to yourself proudly, “This gathering is more than a belief in the same God, these people are family!”

The apostle Peter revealed that God is building something big and beautiful out of all of us, Anglicans, Baptists, Brethren, Coptics, Catholics, Charismatics, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, and the hundreds of other kinds of Christians.   We are each “Living stones to make a spiritual house.” 1 Peter 2:5  Can we plumb the depths of that sentence? Each rough-edged stone is being fitted. We are not certain how it all will look in the end, nor do we have to. That’s the glory of God. We are pretty sure, though, that the family of God, imperfect as we are, was made to teach the world the beauty of unity in diversity. We haven’t always done such a good job at this, have we? Lets keep at it!




“You Can Quote That!”

A handful of people get agitated if I quote people who are not of their religious or moral persuasion. Yet sometimes they do say things that are worth hearing and are also true! I was taught that all truth is still God’s even if it is not written in the Bible. If the Pope or quotation-marksJohn Piper or Pink says that mercy is at the very top of the Christian hierarchy of great truths, it is still true no matter who says it! By the way it was Pope Francis who made that truth statement.

Truth can stand on its own, but truth standing by itself can appear to be a little high and mighty. Are you surprised that John describes Christ in the opening chapter of his book as being full of ‘grace and truth’? What an attractive combination. A good chef knows the key to being a top chef is in the presentation! presentation is everything! The way we present the Good News should be seasoned with a generous amount of grace. If I come across as superior and judgmental, most likely the truth I am trying to share will be left on the plate and scraped into the trash bin.

In practical terms, if you overheard me in conversation with someone who says something ridiculous, and my response was to jump all over that and to bring that person down to size, think of what effect that would produce.  Not only will that method NOT bring him over to my side of the river, he will proceed and build a dam to block my side of the water from seeping into his!

After many readings of the gospels I honestly conclude that the truth message Jesus brought was both authoritative and welcomed because it first came from the gentle grace He exuded. He developed real relationships rather than destroying arguments. Please quote me on that! It is no accident that John mentions grace before truth. Another way of putting it is that He gracefully incarnated truth before He proclaimed it. Yes, there were a few occasions when He pointed out truth that wasn’t received. That is Bridge-over-troubled-wate-006normal. And we can point out times when He was indignant towards those who were supposed to represent the heart of God, but instead made heaven’s heart look like that of an unbending dictator.

Everything being equal, the pattern of Jesus’ life and conversations suggests to me that wonderfully designed mercy bridges were framed for the outcasts, the marginal, the poor, the unclean and the sinner to enter over to God’s Graceland. Quote me on that too and keep it in mind for the next time you have a conversation about truth.

Stop Wasting!

1 Corinthians 15:10 (The Message) 10-11 But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste.

I hate wasting things, especially time and money! I will use cologne to the last drop even if I’m not enamored with the scent. Nothing is free in life and money does not come to me easily. So I’m still using my lawnmower even though it’s not cutting well. So I’ll wax my car one more time to help make the color last a bit longer. When someone gives me a gift, I try to take good care of it even if it means putting it away in the closet because it’s not really my thing. “Don’t be wasteful,” droned my parents as I grew up. That phrase has seriously landed on my memory glands.

I also think of that phrase we use as we shake our heads in pity, “Such a waste!” It is used for people who had so much potential and ability only to let it remain undeveloped. It is also used for someone who got injured somehow and a promising career cut short. “Man, such a waste!” I love the way Eugene Peterson translates Paul familiar words, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect.” Eugene’s version shows us how amazingly generous and gracious God was to Paul and Paul’s life-response was, “I’m not about to let God’s grace go to waste.”

I’ve been thinking about the challenging question, “How do you waste God’s grace?” Are you wasting God’s grace? I think about a famous guy named Bob Dylan. That guy had a surprising conversion and made three awesome inspiring albums that spoke of his love for “God’s Grace.” I particularly liked “Slow Train Comin” and it is still a classic. We were all surprised when Dylan stopped following Christ. For whatever reason, he decided to leave it all behind. Not just thinking about his talent and influence, but also his future when I say, “Such a waste.”

When Paul spoke these powerful words about not wasting God’s grace, he first reminds the Corinthian believers of his past, where he had come from. In the verse just before he reminds them of how he was so blinded by hate that he tried to destroy Christianity singlehandedly. Not many of us have the words, “violent, murder, hatred…” etched in blood on our resume. Paul did. Now, because of the terrible things that he’d done years earlier, Paul would conclude, like you and I, that he was not even worthy to be part of the group that could say, “I saw Jesus after his resurrection!” Paul says, “C’mon now, me an apostle? It does not make any sense!”

Paul, of all people, was the most surprised by how much grace God poured down all over him. In fact he goes further to say something to the effect that he’s the last one in the world who deserved grace. He’s blown away by it all. Scandalous! But then he says those well loved words, “But by the Grace of God, I am what I am.” Pretty awesome. Grace made all the difference in him and allowed him to be what and who he was back then and that Grace just kept him moving powerfully forward in strength and joy. For that reason Paul became an example of a life that did not waste the grace of God. He lived every moment in thanks, joy, and usefulness for the love of God. Nothing wasted.

Grace is not free. It cost God a son. It’s scandalous. And the scandalous grace of God can make all the difference in your life and mine. It is the most undeserved and costly gift we’ll ever receive. Grace changes everything. Can you say that today? Because of God’s scandalous grace you are not just heading to the gym to prolong your existence. You are not just making money to spend it on…you. You are using your life for a higher purpose. You are living joyfully knowing who you are and moving forward under the grace-giving hand of God.

Keep doing that and you won’t waste the precious gift of grace that came your way at just the right time.