1. Don’t do certain bad things.
2. Don’t hang out with people who do said bad things.
At some point two things occurred to me:
1. I will regularly do bad things.
2. If I’m going to be like Jesus, I will regularly spend time with people who do things I don’t.
In many ways, these revelations were freeing. It allowed me to relax a little, and embrace the forgiveness God promises. It also means that my circle of friends has increased from people who are just like me to include people from different races, political parties, churches and sexual orientations.
I’ve learned a lot from this more graceful stance, and rather than fill a book with what I’ve learned, I point you to the words of Henri Nouwen.
But to be totally honest, it’s a bit exhausting.
Giving grace to yourself requires that you are conscious of when you fail to live up to your standards. It also means that you regularly take time to ask God for forgiveness for your failures. Just taking time to recognize those is exhausting.
Giving grace to others requires constantly staring at and listening to things you might not like. It forces you to think outside the box and question why you do what you do. It gives you far less opportunities to argue for your way. Like anything that makes you stronger, it tears you up a bit first.
Although grace is exhausting, hope is enlivening. This has altered how I look at the time I spend gathered with my church community. Whether it’s liturgy or cooking dinner or going for a ride or hitting up happy hour we are brought together by a common hope. We rest in our hope that we are forgiven. We rest in the humility that it is God, not us who will sort out the good and the bad. We rest in our hope that history is headed somewhere.
We rest because we trust that no matter how exhausting grace is, it’s worth it.