Monday, February 28, 2011

SECOND-THINKING MY FAITH TALK IN LIGHT OF MY NONCHRISTIAN FRIENDS

I am ever more conscious of the impact of my faith assertions and actions in my community relationships

I realize--I am ever more conscious of the fact--that as I worship, write, speak and act, I do so as a follower of Jesus in the context of a larger community of people who do not.

Even as I claim a name and articulate a theology for what I experience of grace, I realize there are many who experience grace without naming it or hardly recognizing it as grace. Even as I formulate life meaning in historic Christian terms and trajectories, many whom I am privileged to encounter, know and be in relationship with formulate meaning quite differently.

This matters more to me now than ever before.

Because I have been led into relationships of integrity, mutuality and respect with people who are not Christian, I think about them and check what I am saying--in word, in action and in spirit.  I give second thought to the claims I am making about my faith and how I make them.

Note, I say "second thought," not "second guess."  This is not about unduly doubting my faith. It is about giving second thought to how I express it.  It is not about compromise.  It is about consideration.

I think of people like Sally. I admire Sally and appreciate our growing friendship; it is something like a gift I've received to care for.  Sally is one of the smartest, most community-aware, most articulate, most caring people I know. More a model of justice and mercy than most Christians I know, Sally is a non-practicing Jew.

'How would Sally hear this?' I sometimes ask myself.  'Does this claim or assertion invalidate her real experiences, hopes and possibilities?' 'Am I talking in closed and insider language; if so, can I find terms and a manner than opens the conversation wider?' 'Do my statements and assertions reflect a closed and provincial worldview; if so, is that what I really believe, or can I reframe and restate what I have experienced and believe to be true in a truly inviting way?' 'Do I readily excuse the sins of the institutional church or individual Christians in a careless, cavalier way that diminishes the reality of their impact on large segments of humanity historically?'

I ask such questions not so much to 'win' Sally as to respect her reality and the value of the relationship I've been given.  And, in making these conscious considerations, I simultaneously challenge my own grasp of meaning and move closer the core of my faith, to what really matters.

To me, this is no denial of my faith.  To the contrary, it is raising my confidence in the grace of God revealed through Jesus of Nazareth to the highest degree.  And, it seems to me, this points beyond stereotypical and divisive assertions and claims. It points to a reality that is deeper, higher, and underpinning what we can not so easily or claim to the exclusion of those who do not yet believe or believe in the manner we find meaningful.

Do I have this figured out?  No.  But I know in my heart that there is more room in the story of grace than most of us who claim Jesus as Lord have been able or willing to acknowledge or articulate.  Not being able to quite grasp it or articulate it should not stop us from saluting the grace at work in Sally's life and those like her.  The same God is at work--graciously--in us all.

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