I am, more often than not, a failure as a Christian. The ways in which I let Him down, get it wrong and just wilfully disobey are seemingly endless. But the sins which hurt the most are repeat offences. It tells me what kind of material He’s got to work with in me when He needs to give the same lesson over and over.
What was it this time? Forgiveness. Largeness of heart. Grace. Denial of self. These are just a few of the many things I don’t do well.
It’s been a practice of mine for a while now to get involved in online conversations where the cause of Christ is being discussed. Remedial Christian I may be, but I do, of course, realise that I cannot change the atheist heart, nor save the unbelieving soul. Neither, however, do I think that I should let ignorance and misrepresentation go unchallenged. So I don’t. Many Christians probably think I should leave it alone; and I know that many atheists feel that way also.
These things can escalate and a discussion forum on local democracy led to a series of misunderstandings between myself and someone I had considered a friend. We were not on speaking terms by the time it was all over.
I should have climbed down -not on matters of Christian principle, of course not, but on my own ego. What people think of me, or say, or write when I am properly witnessing for Christ, that doesn’t matter. The day I accepted Him, I was meant to die to self. All such brickbats are not meant to matter in the light of His glory and grace.
But I couldn’t let this go. No – correction – I wouldn’t let this go.
It took a Quaker to make this Wee Free penitent. He knew, somehow, of the ill-feeling between me and this other person, and suggested very gently that I should show her a modicum of support in something very brave she did recently.
Well, I’m not going to lie. He floored me with his mild common sense, and his pure motive. I thought about it from every angle and realised that the only thing preventing me from doing as he said was my own pride.
So I swallowed it. Not as graciously as I could, or should, have. But she, I think, felt as I did and all these months of bitterness and rancour swiftly evaporated.
And it felt good. I didn’t know what a weight had been pressing on my conscience until it was lifted. All because of grace. Oh, not mine. No, God’s grace at work in this man who has somehow fallen into step with me along the journey. If it had been dependent upon me letting go of my pride . . . well, I shudder to think what a state my life would be in.
It set me thinking about people, and about the latent power of the online community. All of this reconciliation hinged, as I said, on God’s intervention. But it was made possible through digital, not face-to-face, connections.
Some folk dismiss social media as being a bit of a fantasy land, somewhere Christians should avoid. I disagree. It is a mirror-image of this world with all the wickedness and danger that entails. There are people there, teetering sometimes on the edge of danger.
So, shouldn’t Christians be there too, shining a light into the dark corners? Isn’t the internet a digital mission field?
I am profoundly grateful to God for putting the wise Quaker in my life, and for teaching me so gently that forgiveness and love must not be forsaken, especially in defending the cause of Christ.
When Christ was nailed to the cross, His Iove never wavered. He was still every inch the Saviour. Remember Satan, in the last blog – he knows he’s defeated, and wants to take as many with him as he can.
Jesus Christ knew at Calvary that victory was His. And as He looked down on the soldiers casting lots for His garments, what revenge did He plan?
‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’.
Though we may reject Him and plot against His cause, He still loves and wants to take as many with Him in glory as He can.
And if I want to be like Him in the smallest way, I need to cultivate that love too.
Mercifully, He reminds me of this when I need reminding. Pray for me that I will not forget this lesson in humility and grace. And pray that, when any of us speaks up for Christ, we ask Him first:
‘What would You have me do?’