We believe in community, right? That's why you're here. It's why I'm here. I'm typing, you're reading, because, on some level, we know that connection to other human beings is what keeps us moving forward. We all know what it's like to have a negative experience with another person. We know the gut reaction to run away, hide out, fight back. We also (hopefully) know what it's like to have a positive experience with another person. We're restored, comforted and encouraged. Like it or not, other people can affect the way we live our lives and what we do with them.
The brutal truth is that sometimes we are a positive force; we give other people (even strangers) that last inch of joy they need to cross the finish line. We smile, give up a parking space, let them go first, make a joke, ask them about their lives and make them feel like someone noticed them. Because we need to be noticed.
Sometimes we are a negative force. We take rather than give; we wound with a look or a word; we break rather than heal. We push against the human spirit and create an atmosphere of defeat and rejection. We can be judgmental and cruel. We can simply not notice someone who needs to be noticed.
Listen, life is about balance. We aren't going to notice every person in the grocery store; we aren't going to always have a smile on our faces; we definitely are not responsible for the rest of the worlds happiness. But we are responsible for the atmosphere we bring with us. What leaks from our lives into the rest of the world is up to us.
So, let's do this: let's create a culture of grace. Let's start something here, in the toes of the body of Christ. Let's create something that will warm the body and flood the world. Let's offer mercy rather than judgement. Let's love instead of bruise. Let's respond rather than react. Let's do this small thing; let's take responsibility for our own atmosphere. Let's get little; let's get quiet. Rather than marching up a hill, pushing a boulder that was never meant for us, let's sit down and listen.
Because that's where Jesus is, friends. It's so easy to forget that we're just trying to live like he lived. That's all. We aren't fulfilling anything, other than religious obligation, by telling people how grotesque their brokenness is. And that culture of judgement that we've all been stumbling around in only comes back to bite us in the tush. At some point our own lives will look broken and will be misunderstood. If we've created a culture of grace, grace will be given back to us. The rejected, once-wounded people we fought for will fight for us. But if we've been building a culture of judgement, brick by brick, we will be crushed by the weight of our own walls and no one will be left to help us.
Right now, you and me, all of us, let's do this. Let's plant seeds of grace. Let's brand that one word over every choice we make. Let's immerse ourselves in the grace of Jesus; fill our minds and our hearts with the love that has rescued us, and then let's water it. Let's water it in others. Let's let others water it in us.
My friend, Alisa, says "Calories in. Calories out." Whatever we consume has to be redistributed and turned into an outward energy. We can't hoard freedom, friends. We can't walk around tightly bound and afraid of loving others. That kind of life will suffocate us. We will become spiritually fat and our hearts will grow weak.
So let's exercise our faith - let's build a culture of grace. Let's do the unexpected and simply love the world as it is. As much as I believe in community, I believe even more in Jesus. Jesus who didn't flinch when dirty, broken, wounded, sinful people sat at his table. Jesus who let a whore weep over his feet and wash them with her hair. Jesus who picked a naked woman up out of the dirt and restored her humanity. Jesus who went out of his way to talk, alone, with a life thirsty woman who had no direction and a series of sad choices behind her. Jesus who wasn't afraid of poverty or disease. Jesus who wandered around, practically homeless and penniless. Jesus who lived a culture of grace; whose atmosphere tore apart the negative experiences in human lives and replaced them with the kind of positive experiences that changed everything. This Jesus.
And, before you start thinking that there is any other law in all of history that carried more weight that the Law of Love, remember this:
One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: "Teacher, which command in God's Law is the most important?" Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."