Scripturally Gentle

Hebrews 10:10-18 (NRSV)

By Chuck Griffin

As Christians, we’re always trying to fully absorb the idea that God came among us in flesh to save us from the deadly power of sin.

With the Christmas season drawing near, I also couldn’t help but think of the humble birth of our Savior, cradled and softly placed in a feeding trough as his first bed. There is so much tenderness in that scene, a moment of beauty in the midst of what too often is a horror story, the ongoing story of people disconnected from God.

As traditional Christians, we so want to focus on the beauty of salvation, but we simultaneously want to be vigilant against the damage sin has wrought and continues to cause. The world has trouble understanding the nuanced message we offer; even followers of Christ sometimes struggle with how to offer that message.

At the extreme edges of our faith, some want to ignore the danger of sin, while others legalistically limit the possibilities of grace. Both edges can at times exhibit a surprising amount of anger.

To be successful in our basic mission, traditionalists need to carry with them an attitude rooted in how God is at work in the world. A phrase popped into my head recently: Scripturally gentle. Like Jesus, we need to be scripturally gentle, openly discussing the terrible danger of sin while preaching the power of grace.

It is not judgmental to share with others the warnings God has given us about certain behaviors. Those biblical revelations from God about what counts as sin need to be declared for all to hear. These should be gentle declarations, however, tempered constantly with the Good News that God offers redemption from sin through Jesus Christ.

Jesus gives us great examples of how to live as scripturally gentle people. One of my favorites is in John 8:3-11, the story of the woman caught in adultery and brought before Jesus. In short, there is sin present in the community, and the legalists want to use the situation as a harsh test. Jesus reminds those present that they all are in need of grace, and the woman’s would-be executioners drift away. Jesus then says to the rescued sinner, “Go your own way, and from now on do not sin again,” pointing her toward a process Methodists call sanctification.

The traditional Methodism I discovered and fell in love with as a young adult has long been filled with scripturally gentle people, setting it apart as a movement within the Kingdom of God. This middle way will continue, even if it has to happen under a new denominational name.

We offer the world an attractive, biblical way to live in faith, and God will bless this approach until the day we see Christ in full.

Lord, thank you for guidance and grace. May the two work hand-in-hand in our lives so we can become holy responses to your great gift of eternal life. Amen.

Gathered for Good

This Sunday’s sermon at Holston View UMC in Weber City, Va., will be “Babbling in Babel,” rooted in Genesis 11:1-9. If you want to view the sermon but cannot be present, the entire worship service will be available through Holston View UMC’s web page.

Today’s preparatory text: Hebrews 10:19-25

By Chuck Griffin

A couple of ancient truths have gotten a lot of modern confirmation recently.

We are for the most part social creatures, and when we’re separated, we suffer. We can gather for very wrong reasons, however, and suffering can ensue anyway.

Most gatherings have such a clear purpose that we create specific words to designate their types: party, play date, potluck, rally and worship are just a few examples from a very long list.

But even those specific types of gatherings can result in either good or evil. What really matters is whether the right person is invited to the event.

If I say “wild dancing,” you might imagine a party that’s gotten out of control. But what if I tell you I’m talking about King David as he brings the Ark of the Covenant home to Jerusalem?

Or I could talk about “committed worship,” and that might sound good to you, until I clarify I’m talking about a gathering of people who practice human sacrifice.

The Creator, Redeemer and Comforter of the world wants to be in the midst of our lives and included in our gatherings. When we make God the honored guest at any kind of social event, opening our hearts and our group to the influence of the Holy Spirit, good naturally flows from the moment.

Think about gatherings you know of that went well and gatherings that collapsed in a heap of ignominy. Which ones were rooted in Christ’s teachings about love of God and love of neighbor, and which ones were not?

Dear Lord, it can be such a struggle to be mindful of your presence in every moment, inviting you to influence all we say and do in community. Help us live as if we are already in the eternal day when we will be bathed in your holy light. Amen.