Throughout the month of June we are focusing on our core values (way of being, behaving) which flow out of our purpose statement: To Love: God, Neighbor, Self. The core values are these:
Grace not guilt
Service without condition
Relationship over rules
Love not fear
In thinking through the first two I discovered how intimately bound together they are. Grace without service is selfish. You become a God hoarder rather than grace extender. On the other hand, service without grace demands an answer to the “why” question. There are many good things to be done in this world and many avenues of honorable service. Within the Christian community, service flows out of the heart of God as a response to God’s grace. As I’ve said in the past few weeks, this journey could be summarized in two simple phrases: Grace in. Grace out.
The two words that should cause some tension in us are “without condition.” Isn’t it wasteful just to offer gifts to those who will abuse it? Shouldn’t we demand a change in heart and new path for life if we are going to offer our service? Culturally, we’ve been struggling with how to bridge the chasm that has developed between those who have and those who don’t, makers and takers, those deserving mercy and those who are underserving, unless they get their life together.
In Jesus ministry I see no such distinction. In fact, his journey was laser focused on those who, for one reason or another, were considered outsiders, foreigners, despised by sensible religious people, or outcasts. He simply engaged them where they were, offered himself in healing ways or with words of forgiveness or expressions of compassion. No morality check to be invited along on the journey. No theological exam required.
Some welcomed the invitation to a new life. Some rejected it. Some received the gift and walked away. Some turned and said, “Thank you” (Luke 17: 11-19) But note this simple truth of Jesus’ life: The gratitude of the recipient did not determine the generosity of the giver.
Service without condition.
Does that mean we unthinkingly throw money at people or programs or issues? No. It does mean, though, that the starting point is not our like or dislike of a person or situation, our attractions or aversions. The starting point is the graciousness of God that comes to us without condition. We did not deserve or earn our ability to breathe, our capacity to think and earn a living. We did not cause our heart to beat or the synapses of our brain to be wired together. They come as gift. Life is gift. Even when we mis-use the gift.
The gratitude of the recipient does not determine the generosity of the giver.
This quote, attributed to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, captures the essence of this value.
People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.
If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.
For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
It’s Monday . The week may seem long and arduous as you look ahead. Live it anyway! Grace in. Grace out. Peace. Kai