Sunday, September 29, 2013
The Message of grace again highlighted my week. As I made pathways to and from conference rooms in the Hyatt of Columbus, the Message followed me. Privileged to be at Peacemaker Ministries' annual conference, I tried to upload, download and reload all the live streaming to my inner tablet. One thing became evident early on; the Message was consistent. Peacemakers with this organization are well trained and all start with the same principles. And those principles all are founded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Which G is that illustrating? What step in the 7 "A"s of confession was omitted? When is it better to work with a co-conciliator? Slippery slopes, heart idols, x-ray questions --part of the language in a culture I admire and was here to learn more about. As I listened to speakers, presenters and fellow participants, my vision and desire to help others work towards resolution of relational conflict was strengthened and encouraged.
Everything was wrapped in grace. The first general session speaker said it this way: "As peacemakers we go to the throne of grace to receive grace to give grace to those who desperately need grace." It's the grace of God that reveals the hindrances to peace in our lives, the log in our own eye. Once we look inside, and recognize our contribution to conflict, and deal with it, we have a different perspective that leads to confession on our part, that can break down walls and allow for reconciliation.
So how does such a Scripture based ministry work outside the church? I headed to the Madison suite for a workshop to find out. Our young presenter spoke well with lots of experience and thoughts that my parents would have thought heretical. God's truth was spoken before the written word, he said, and exists whether someone encounters it in the Bible or not. So it can be found in secular places and it will be revealed to those that seek for it. There's a God given vacuum inside each person He has created and the desire for good and right is what most people are looking for. They've dismissed religion and church, but they want life to go well. When they are asked to identify their highest values and realize their life is not measuring up they begin to understand their need for a Savior. God's people have the opportunity to represent him and his love and grace. It's not our job to get anyone saved; only God can draw the heart to himself. Christian, the presenter's name, has been on the receiving end of someone trying to evangelize him. More than wanting to connect with him and get to know him, the person seemed only interested in making sure he read the tract he had given him, or when Christian said he was already a Christian the evangelizer told him to give the tract to someone else and walked away. We shouldn't be out to "seal the deal" with a sinner, but to love those God puts in our path. He has a purpose for our lives intersecting, even for a brief encounter. Christian pointed out that Jesus only used Scripture with the religious leaders and the devil; the rest of the time he told stories about the Kingdom of Heaven and spent time with people and went to their parties. We know he never compromised the truth, but neither did he try and force everyone he met to acknowledge who he was.
Christian studied sociology in school and started out by trying to stump secular professors with challenging questions about Christianity and shooting holes in their premises. He came to realize how arrogant that was and disrespectful. The professor had spent years of study in the field and Christian's inexperience made very little impression. As Christian gained knowledge and relationship with his professors, they could begin to trust him and were much more open to listening to Christian's arguments and beliefs. As he was about to graduate and leave the program, he felt led to ask one of his professors if there was anything she would like prayer about. She said yes. Christian was disappointed that she only asked for prayer about a new curriculum she was writing. But he prayed that it would be well received and go well for her. From there that new initiative went on to be very successful. Christian said he hasn't had anymore contact with her, but he can't help but wonder if someday she'll connect the success, with the prayer, and come closer to knowing the One who loves her so much that he just didn't bless one of her accomplishments, but gave his life for her.
To breathe his grace into every situation around me just means looking for opportunities to show his love. My presence can make a difference because His presence is in me. And I want to be ready then, to share when the opportunity comes.
"Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you." 1Peter 3:15
Bishop Mouneer Anis from Egypt spoke one morning. He gave a good overview of what has happened in his country since the "Arab Spring" and how we haven't always heard the truth about the circumstances. His churches are partnering with secular leaders, Muslim imams and business executives to sponsor art shows, bring programs to school children, and meet needs in the community. He believes Christ asks them to serve and engage the world around them without compromising the truth. Many opportunities arise for sharing God's salvation one on one as relationships are built in working together.
I leave the conference encouraged and feeling like I've been a recipient of this God-grace. Grace that isn't a taskmaster to drive me to share peacemaking principles, but grace that lets me know I'm loved and chosen to represent the Awesome, All-Powerful God who longs for all persons to come to know him. A God who is peace and works to bring unity and harmony to those who trust him. What a privilege! I am humbled. I want to know him better, to know his thoughts and how he works. To see things the way he does and to have his love in me filled to the brim and running over. To go beyond the megabytes of my limitations to the place where the temporal is overtaken by the eternal.
So be it Father!