Last weekend I was torn up over the executive order on refugees. I don’t want to expose too much on my political leanings and distract from the greater purpose of this post, but it was a very loud day in my head. I could understand feelings from several different view points, and if I am honest, I didn’t know what to feel. I hope you can read that with grace, whatever your side is. I was hurting for people, but I had friends with different points of view who are people I respect and love.
As the day wore on, however, I found myself becoming increasingly angry. Angry because some friends were affected by the order. Angry because one friend could be in danger of losing her job. Angry because some friends who are hoping to move to Iraq could face obstacles due to reciprocation. I typed and deleted several Facebook statuses. I cautiously retweeted a few things I agreed with.
The truth is, living abroad for years has changed me. It has changed me in ways I didn’t expect and it changed parts of my heart I didn’t know were up for changing. Living in close proximity to people from all over the globe exposed me to new ways of thinking that I didn’t know existed. My perspective is different now. I am a person of greater grace than I used to be because I have come to accept that there is much I don’t know, there is much I don’t do, and there is much I get wrong. I get it wrong a lot. I have gotten it wrong a lot in the past and I imagine that is a trend that will continue.
But at times I imagine that I have come to transformation of my own effort, of my own intelligence, my own volition. Yesterday as I prepared to preach on Peter I was moved by his transformation. It was a slow transformation. He got it wrong a lot. But Jesus was so patient with him. The Holy Spirit filled him, transformed him. He became a person of peace and healing where he had been violent before. He became a person of boldness rather than a person of fear.
Peter’s confession of Christ in Matthew 16 moves me deeply. Peter boldly answered Christ’s question of “Who do you say I am?” By replying, “You are the Messiah.” Peter couldn’t have known what that meant. What was expected of the Messiah was an overthrowing of an oppressive government, a king that would bring in a day where they would have a space of their own. Peter couldn’t have known at that moment the death, the resurrection, the redemption bought by blood. Peter couldn’t have known how he himself would change – he didn’t imagine that he would later deny knowing this Christ, deny their friendship. He didn’t imagine that he would later boldly preach that resurrection power, that he would heal people through the power of Christ.
But Peter didn’t transform himself. He didn’t become a person of mercy because he tried hard and behaved well. And he didn’t change immediately upon his confession of Christ. He transformed because he knew Jesus, because the Holy Spirit transformed him, but it took a long time, and he got it wrong a lot.
Sometimes I rage at people to be merciful. I want to grip people by the throat and shake them and scream at them to be merciful and full of grace. I deeply, deeply want to stand against injustice. I don’t want to be scared to stand against injustice. And how I sometimes want to vilify those who don’t say what I think they should. How quickly I write off those whose opinions differ from mine. How I miss the irony of wanting to rage at someone to show grace.
And sometimes we like to point to Jesus and how he flipped those tables over. We like to remind everyone that Jesus was full of righteous indignation and it’s okay to yell and rage because we are just following his example. “See,” we say. “Jesus flipped tables over and we are here to do the same.”
But may we remember that Christ flipped those tables one time in 33 years of dealing with people who didn’t get it. His radical love was lost on those who knew him best over and over. His grace on display, his touching the untouchable, these things were lost on people. And he was so patient with them. So loving. This was it – these were the people who would carry on his message and they kept getting it wrong. But he was so patient. He taught them in love. He corrected them when they veered wrong.
When Peter confessed Christ, Jesus knew that didn’t mean that Peter knew everything about the Kingdom, everything about this upside down way the Kingdom worked. But Jesus called out purpose in Peter anyway. Peter had a long way to go, but Jesus saw him where he was and called him who he was. “You are a rock,” Jesus told him. “I will build my church on you.”
The unqualified. The scared. The judgmental. The violent. The ones who don’t know how to show mercy. The ones who forgot where we came from. The ones who forgot the cost of the blood. We are the ones He uses. We are the ones He is so patient with. As we rage and as we fear and as we exclude and as we try – and keep trying – as we do our best. He is so patient. He is full of mercy.
So we keep getting it wrong. And we keep trying our best to figure out how to do this thing, how to live out the beatitudes and how to love each other. We keep trying to figure out how to stand against injustice, to love the oppressed, to do the work of Christ.
I don’t have the answers. Not even close. Today I am just thinking about how I keep getting it wrong and Jesus is so patient with me. And I am grateful.