I recognize that sometimes it is best to start small, so I decided recently to stop eating French fries. Not long afterward I was at a BBQ establishment and ordered the pulled pork plate. “Instead of the tater tots (a French fry facsimile) can I have banana pudding?” Remember, small steps! The waitress responded curtly, “No.”. That was it. No counter offer like, “I can but I’ll charge you an extra $3.95 and you’ll get the tots anyway.” Just “No.”
A week later, I was in another restaurant where the waitress cheerfully informed me about the shrimp special. I love shrimp! “Okay, I’ll have the special and can I get a baked potato instead of the fries?” The answer? “No.” Once again, no other offer, even an up charge of $1.95, just “No.”
Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is refreshing to have some clear delineation, clarity: yes or no, period. No gray area, no ambiguity, no question- there it is, no discussion, no debate, take it or leave it.
Unfortunately it seems that more and more we encounter this uncompromising, pick a side and stand firm. There is no debate really. Pick any societal issue of today and there is plenty of rhetoric defending positions but rarely any genuine dialogue and respect for the other. Just yes or no.
As Methodists, we lay claim to a fundamental attribute of God based on scripture and Wesley, the notion of grace. That incredible extension of God’s love to us that stands in the breech between the pure light of God and our sin darkened hearts. Grace, a powerful alternative between salvation and condemnation, yes and no.
We are quick to claim this marvelous grace as our own but why are we so slow to extend it to one another? We find it too easy to put folks in categories based on a sliver of info and label them yes or no. It is rare that we cut them some slack, care enough to listen, discover the person, be graceful and grace filled.
The world may retreat into the divisions of us and them, yes and no, pro and con; but there is an alternative. Grace is the heart of our understanding of God and the basis of our relationship with him. Let us make grace the basis of our relationship with one another.