Hope depends upon the capacity of a person to trust in the ultimate goodness of things rather than on the evidence of any particular moment’s appearance. That is important for the living of these days.
In the fractures of our present politics, our divisions, our radical differences of how we see the same world, it is tempting to withdraw from the fray.
It is also tempting to deepen the gulf. Neither of these options help either us or the world. And it is not particularly useful to God’s kingdom in this moment.
In his wonderful book, “Vanishing Grace: Sharing Real Grace with a Thirsty World,” Philip Yancey writes, “Jesus had the uncanny ability to look at everyone with grace-filled eyes, seeing not only the beauty of who they were, but also the sacred potential of what they could become. We, his followers, have the same challenge: ‘So from now on, we regard no one from a worldly point of view,’ Paul told the Corinthians.”
Yancey continues, “Evidently, we are not doing likewise since many people think of faith, especially evangelical faith, as bad news. They believe Christians view them through eyes of judgment, not eyes of grace. Somehow, we need to reclaim the ‘goodnewsness’ of the gospel, and the best place to start is to rediscover the good news ourselves.”
It is not natural for us to see one another this way. We survive by a healthy suspicion of all but those who clearly love us or have demonstrated they will not con us, use us or manipulate us to make a buck or sometimes even for simple apparent cruelty. We warn our children of the risk of strangers. Our media heightens our sense of constant threat by others to our well-being.
This suspicion of others is not without reasonable experience to back it up. Unfortunately, it cannot accomplish very much in the way of turning the tide of disintegration of human life.
Consider, for a moment, the calmness of Jesus, who in every situation that could have brought distress or anxiety – death, disease, mental disintegration, political threats, abandonment by family and friends, even finally the loss of his own life – kept clear.
He seemed to see something else in the outcasts and even in his enemies that they could not see themselves.
I think that’s what Paul was writing about in 2 Corinthians 5 when he described this “ministry of reconciliation” that has been given to us. It is the ability to “see like Jesus” amid a very turbulent life.
Ours is the ministry of grace. It is our privilege to express it to one another and to others who have all but abandoned hope that such a way could truly exist.
I see it in the tenderness of all of you in the face of death, dying and personal troubles. Faith abides.
As congregations move into the season of budgeting and making commitments for the new year, it is important to remember that what we are committing to together is not merely a place to worship or programs to occupy our time, but to the ministry of grace and to providing new eyes for everyone we can – the eyes to see as Jesus saw. I am more grateful for this vision than ever.
The place where this wonderful message of grace can be effective is when we first believe it for ourselves and then begin to share it with others.
We trust that in spite of our failings, brokenness, self-doubts and fears, such grace thrives precisely when it seems most preposterous from the appearance of things around us. Such a grace is worth a life.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared on Vestavia Hill Baptist Church’s pastor’s blog. It is used with permission.
Gary Furr is pastor of Vestavia Hills Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama.