Philip Yancey’s new book, Vanishing Grace: Whatever Happened to the Good News? helped me put a name and face on some issues rolling around inside of me. For sometime I have been distressed by the polarization of my society. Everyone has such strong opinions and views about EVERYTHING—from politics, to religion, from diet to childrearing, from marriage to “right-to-_____” issues ( you fill in the blank). And everyone seems ready to die to defend their position. Well, maybe not die, but get really down and dirty about it.
So how do I, as a Christian, survive, even thrive, in such a culture? How do I then live? Philip Yancey distilled some of my angst. The real issue I am dealing with, I discovered, is not whether I agree with someone but rather how I treat someone with whom I profoundly disagree. This book challenged me again (not a new concept, I just needed to be reminded) to re-think the way I look at people and how I deal with them.
God, help me to see others not as my enemies or as ungodly,but rather as thirsty people. And give me the courage and compassion to offer your Living Water, which alone quenches deep thirst. —Henri Nouwen
Not my enemies, not ungodly, but thirsty. That’s a different way of looking at others. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, the fictional lawyer, says, “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view...until you climb into his skin and walk around it.”
So how do I get to understand thirsty people and share the Living Water? I need to hear their stories. By the way, most conversations come about as an outgrowth of friendship. Then I need to restrain myself from judging. I need to avoid being ready with my advice, but be brave and risk sharing my own story—the good, the bad and the ugly.
I do not have all the answers. I stumble along, believing that an invisible God really does exist, that there is more to life than mere sound and fury, that despite all appearance, the universe is a product of a Personal Love. Along the way I often muddle ethical issues and miss the priorities of God’s kingdom. I have little reason for pride. And I am painfully learning that humility is a prerequisite for grace-giving.
Here’s a good test of how well we love and dispense Living Water: Are other people— even those with whom we disagree—glad to be with us?
Carol Keller is a wife, mom, grandmother, and Bible teacher. Some of her favorite things are her husband, her three grandsons, her friends, beaches, anything coconut, bluegrass music, flip-flops, and words. She loves to read words, write words, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.