October 24, 2013

Unity, Not Uniformity

Because of technical difficulties with Feedburner yesterday, the post I wrote entitled Preparing Personally for Church Planting was not sent to email subscribers. If you missed it and would like to read it, you can click here

In some ways, grace can be lonely. Allow me to illustrate by simply asking a few questions:

What is the right way: cloth or disposable?
What is the Christian way: private or public?
Who is the more spiritual mom: stay-at-home or working?
What is right and what is wrong: missionary or businessman?
Who has favor in the eyes of God: she who has a tv or she who doesn't?
Who is better qualified for ministry: single or married?
What is the right way to feed your child: organic or non-organic?
What is the right way to spend your money: give it to a good cause or go on a vacation?
Who is more godly: the pierced or the unpierced? the made-up or those going au naturel?
Who is the more spiritual: adoptive parents or those who have no children?
I'm curious as to your response. However, I'm not looking for a circled list returned to me in the comment section. This is not a biblical exam because this list does not cover any commands from Scripture. This list does, however, cover things that we talk about in Christian circles. And we often make up rules about them.

If we set our lives according to man-made standards and parameters, we'll never be lonely. We can huddle together with the others who swear by cloth diapers and discuss the best brands. We can gather in our public school groups and turn our minds off to the unique needs of private school or homeschool moms. We can go to the mission field and look pitifully at the Americans still sitting in the pews back home. Indeed, when we live by the law, we can always find a like-minded soul to huddle with who will validate our choices. We can tell everyone our opinions as if they were law, because we have perpetual back-up. And we appear very together and very sure of ourselves.

But when we live according to the law--these man-made standards that have no basis in the gospel--we huddle far from those who don't agree, who don't live as we do, or who we cannot understand. We cause division, because we force people into categories and identities based on their choices.

When we live according to Christ's gospel of grace, we may be lonely in the sense that we won't huddle in any one category. We aren't identified by our choices. We can't be put in a box. We identify ourselves, not as this kind of mom or that kind of woman, but as a child of God. We follow His lead, not the lead of the huddle we're in.

Living identified as a child of God is hard to do. It's really hard to walk in grace. It's really hard to extend it to others and especially to give it to ourselves. It's hard because we have to reject the comparison game, and our flesh was born to compare. It's hard because we can't settle into nice, neat little categories, and we risk being misunderstood or judged. It's hard because sometimes God leads us differently than how He leads others, and we're standing out on an island feeling vulnerable and, sometimes, like we're doing something wrong and completely unspiritual.

But in another sense, grace is not lonely at all. Grace attracts where the law repels and divides. More accurately, grace attracts those who know their need for it, and it repels those who think they've already got it all figured out. A person living in grace will never be without the companionship of the fellow poor-in-spirit. Many will be drawn and freed by the grace she speaks.

So how did you answer the questions above? Each question should make you rise up in frustration, not rise up to defend your position, because these aren't the right questions we should be asking anyway. They aren't the questions we should be talking about with other women. Instead, we should be thinking about the humility that comes out of a gospel understanding, we should be talking about faith, hope, and love far more than diapers, education, and marriage, and we should be encouraging one another to go to God to ask, "Lord, what is it you have for me as an individual or for us as a family?" and then rejoicing in God's clear answers.

Because grace brings unity, but it doesn't bring uniformity.