Quantifying Compassion

My father’s father asked him to plant sweet potatoes one day. It was going to be a full day’s work. After about half the day, he pitched the rest in the bayou that ran on the side of their house and went on. My grandfather asked him if he had planted them, and Dad said he had. A few weeks later, my grandfather asked him again. My father insisted that he had planted them. My grandfather asked, “Where?” to which my father began to know he was in trouble. My grandfather led him to the side of the house where sweet potato shoots were coming out of the water in the bayou! The gig was up.

Christianity is often lauded as the one major faith group in the world that uplifts grace. Critics from the outside claim that Christianity is divisive and leads to much intolerance in the world. Christians insist that this is not so because we believe we have been saved by grace and are called, therefore, to be a gracious people. In some manner or form, this message is regularly taught from Christian pulpits around the planet regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or denomination.

But my question is whether we actually are gracious, not whether we teach graciousness. Do we give, expecting nothing in return? Do we give to people who do not deserve it? Do we forgive when people have wronged us (maybe even wronged us more than a few times)?

It is important for churches not to be in the business of measuring graciousness. If we did measure or quantify it, we would create a system of works for salvation which would be none too different than the one that the original Reformers protested against, hence the name Protestant. It used to be that the church measured whether you were among the elect or not. But we are not to be the judge of others, Jesus made that clear.

That said, I do think we should judge our own graciousness. We should try to measure the graciousness of the churches in which we worship. Am I being gracious? Is my church as a whole being gracious? Do I, and do we, practice what we preach and teach? If the answer is yes, praise the Lord! Ask others to come and join. We live in a world thirsty for grace.

If the answer is no, you shouldn’t run away or give up. But you should examine the grace you give and the grace your Church gives. Be the person who makes the change.

If we don’t change, the fruit of our labor will come into view one day, as it did with the sweet potatoes. As Jesus warned, nothing is going to remain hidden. But if we believe in Jesus Christ, that means believing in his way of life. Don’t we want the fruit of our life to yield good results? A central part of who Jesus was was that he did not come to judge others, and he frequently offered grace to others. Can we be so bold as to live the same way? Are we brave enough to start measuring ourselves and see how we stack up? If we come up short, are we willing to change? If where we worship comes up short, will we help be part of the change?

Some questions to ponder on a Wednesday afternoon.

All the best,

Tom

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