A quick perusal of online comments, letters to the editor, talk shows, and news commentaries reveal that forbearance for the sins of others is in short supply. Politics and many businesses appear to have expunged mercy and generosity from their operations.
Theologian Miraslov Volf in his book, Free of Charge – Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, writes, “Mainly we’re set up to sell and buy, not to give and receive… To give is to lose.” We do not know how to receive our lives. We try to earn our worth, or demand it because we feel entitled to it. We see the other as either a potential rival or a target market. We are quick to blame, slow to forgive, and eager to sue. Getting and spending, beating and winning, we are oblivious to the ocean of care and delight in which we have been placed by the sheer goodness of God.
You guessed it. I have been watching television and reading newspapers too much. Our culture distracts us from the truth of the totally unearned, undeserved gift of our precious lives. In contrast to the world, faith teaches us that we are not here to achieve our own purposes, but rather to be instruments of God’s grace and peace.
Volf closes his book with a long series of questions:
So why do so many of us take the “sword” into our hands so readily? Why do we visit vengeance on our enemies, when we should, inspired by the cross, forgive?….Why have many of our Christian fathers and mothers throughout history, greedy and vengeful as they were, left so much suffering in their trail?… Why do we refuse the God-given bridge that would transport us from selfishness to self-giving, from vengeance to forgiveness? That’s a mystery that should make us tremble – tremble before the God who gives to the ungrateful and the God who forgives the ungodly.
These are huge questions, questions that need to be asked and considered. However I think the way out of the morass of human resistance to grace is probably not in looking at our tangled, twisted selves, but rather in lifting our eyes to the Transcendent Goodness in our midst. Gazing on love, mercy, and justice cleanses, refreshes, and re orders our priorities.
And here in Topeka, Kansas you may receive such a grace filled vision, actually free of charge. The Sunflower Music Festival is in town. For nine evenings you can listen to some of the world’s best musicians play Mozart, Beethoven, Ives, Gershwin, and others.
Little kids, youth, and the elderly, bussed in from care centers, will sit hushed in the packed concert hall each night. We watch the conductor lean over his orchestra, calling forth lilting melodies of heart breaking beauty and thundering power. We fall into the wonder of the pianist’s hands, the French horn’s smooth haunting call, and the sobbing sweep of violins.
We take part in the miracle of humans cooperating, denying themselves, as they lose their lives to create together something larger, finer, than any one of us could do alone. We surrender to the gift of grace among us that is manifested as we give and receive, bend and bow, rest, and watch the hand of the one who can weave out of our lives together on this earth something that thrills, frees, and heals.
Where’s the grace? Why right in your own back yard. And here in Topeka at the Sunflower Festival, it won’t cost you a cent.
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