Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Working Together Graciously

The WWII martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words remain so insightful for many Christian communities. Written to encourage believers to take heart amid the intense hardship who are standing up against the despicable Nazi regime, Bonhoeffer urges believers to love one another more and more.
“Christians need other Christians who speak God’s Word to them. They need them again and again when they become uncertain and disheartened because, living by their own resources, they cannot help themselves without cheating themselves out of the truth. They need other Christians as bearers and proclaimers of the divine word of salvation. They need them solely for the sake of Jesus Christ.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together, Fortress Press, 2004, p32) 
As many of us know, the Church of God has endured many schisms throughout history. Go to any church, and it is common to see how a single disagreement can lead to a big time split. It seems like while many people call themselves children of God, they put on childish behaviour that puts one’s own interest above others. Working together may mean living together for a period of time. Living together means learning to work together graciously for a lot of time. Grace is not an option but a specific evidence that we ourselves have been saved by grace. Ungrace is a rude slap on the gospel of Jesus. Leaders of churches must be quick to address any ungraciousness, not in a tit-for-tat manner, but in grace. 

 As we prepare to serve our fellow believers, be prompt to listen to needs, but be even more prompt to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating a sensitive ear to God will give us gentler spirits and gracious listening to people around us. When someone complains, what is our default response? Do we criticize the complainant for insisting they are right? Or do we graciously listen and understand them first?

When one is stressed, it is easy to become negative about many things. When one is well rested, it is easier to give others the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, times of challenges are also opportunities for us to exercise faith in God. Truly resting in God is not about doing nothing in a sound-proof or activity-less world. True rest in God is about trusting God under all circumstances. Here is my take on trusting God when working together.

Working together in grace means firstly, we do not be calculative about who does more or who does less. If Jesus has said that the old lady’s two copper coins have outgiven all of the rest, who are we to comment about the gifts of other people? Grace means being able to recognize we all have different levels of gifts and capabilities. We all contribute what we can, without regard to how much or how little people have done. We can only talk about our own.

Secondly, working together in grace means learning to communicate in grace. When schedules are tight, and when expectations differ, it is easy to give in to negative emotions. Hold our negative words. Think of how Christ would have us communicate the truth in love. See in what manner you can assist. This is especially when groups are large. When groups are large, expectations differ by huge proportions, compounded by interpretations of other people’s interpretations. Remember Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) 

Note the words "building others up according to THEIR needs." Wow! That's how grace looks like. May our words be filled with wholesome words of truth, spoken out in gentleness and love.

Thirdly, come together often to worship. There is no greater expression of unity in the body other than worship. For in worship, we need to have settled our grudges before we can bring our gifts to the altar of the Lord. In worship, we need to be truthful in our lips and in our hearts. The bishop William Barclay reminds us that our Christian living ought to flow out of a vibrant worship life. He writes, “Real worship is the offering of everyday life to him, not something transacted in a church, but something which sees the whole world as the temple of God.”

Perhaps, living together in church is our laboratory of living. If we want to make a difference in the world outside, may we learn to make a difference first in our Churches inside.

One more thing. Ever wonder why God places certain individuals that are so different from us? Maybe, it is a way to help us become better persons of grace. Perhaps, they are God's mirror to us, that we may learn to reflect back on ourselves, whether we have done to others what we want others to do to us.



Sunshine said...

Yes, working together is tough. God have mercy on us :)

Conrade Yap, (Dr) said...

Working together is tough. Working together when hearts are cold, or when relationships are hurt, is even tougher.

You may be interested in "Redeeming Church Conflicts."


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