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Giving and Receiving Grace

by | Aug 14, 2018 | Featured-News, South District Newsletter, South District Webpage

Two of the mementos that we have from our years in Alaska are reproduction totem poles that are about twenty-seven inches tall. They are the Easter Totem Pole and the Christmas Totem Pole. The original full-size totem poles were carved by a very talented retired United Methodist pastor in the Alaska Conference. I believe that I bought one of the reproduction totem poles, and that the other one was given to us when we moved away from serving in the Alaska Conference. They have a hole on the back of them so that they can hang from a nail. These two totem poles have hung in our houses for a very long time.

When we moved into our current house just after Thanksgiving last year, I hung the two totem poles between the windows in our breakfast nook. They look really good there. On Valentines Day, while I was on one of my trips to Phoenix, I received a text from my wife with a picture showing the Christmas Totem Pole in three pieces. The message with the picture said that while she was opening the shades she bumped it, and it fell off the wall. I don’t think that was an easy text for her to send to me.

There was a time in my life when I would have been very angry about the totem pole being broken. The first time that I decided that I wanted to give up being angry was during my cancer treatments almost three decades ago. I had very little energy, and I decided that I didn’t want to use any of it on being angry. Unfortunately, that decision didn’t last. After I was healed from my cancer, I still struggled with my anger. Later in my life, though, I re-dedicated myself to not getting angry. There are occasional re-lapses, but I feel like I have made some good progress. The broken totem pole didn’t bother me at all. I’m much more concerned about my wife’s feelings than I am about a broken totem pole.

I personally find it to be hard to give grace to people when I am angry at them. In the midst of my anger, it is easy for me to apply harsh judgement. One of the scriptures that I have been pondering is Matthew 7:1-2. From the NRSV it says: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement that you make you will be judged, and the measure that you give will be the measure that you receive.”

How can it affect our relationships if “the measure that we give is the measure that we receive”? This last Saturday night I was grateful that I responded to the breaking of the totem pole with grace. This was the night when I decided to start gluing the totem pole back together with Super Glue. It really didn’t look like the glue was going to hold, so I put extra glue on the two pieces that I connected. As I held the two pieces together, I wiped off the extra glue that squeezed out. After holding the two pieces together for a while, I lay the totem pole onto a paper towel that was on the table. I left it alone for several hours to let it dry. Anyone want to guess who glued the totem pole to the kitchen table? Glue seeped out of the totem pole and went right through the paper towel. My wife didn’t even flinch when I told her that it was glued to the table. I have to admit that it felt good to receive her grace!

I have been wondering if the judgement and grace that God plans on applying to each of us might be on a sliding scale. This is just my own theory, but what if the scale is determined by our own thoughts and actions? If the measure that we give is the measure that we are going to receive? If my theory turns out to be true, does this scare anyone?

My imperfections are obvious to me. I like to tell people that I need all the grace that I can get from God. It makes sense to me that the kind of grace that I would like to receive, is the kind of grace that I should give to others. What kind of grace would you like to receive? What kind of grace are you offering to others?

As we look at our churches, are we more a place of grace, or a place of judgement? Which one has Jesus taught us to be? It is clear to me that Jesus is calling us to be a place of grace. Sometimes, though, we get grace and judgement confused. How is your church doing on this issue?

Your brother on the journey, Mark

 

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