Gracism: The Art of Inclusion

Matthew 5 - Anger

Matthew 5:21-24 (from The Message) – Jesus says, “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.  This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.”

My Pastor, Dr. Steve Laufer, notes, “The positive side of the sixth commandment is pretty far-reaching, as reconciliation and forgiveness are tied to killing and violence. The New Testament writers speak often about the responsibility of disciples to seek reconciliation when they have wronged or been wronged by another. In doing so one squashes the possibility of violence, gives testimony to God’s forgiveness in his or her own life, and becomes one of the ‘peacemakers’ that is called ‘blessed’ in the beginning of Jesus’s great Sermon on the Mount.”

Last Summer, I read Gracism:  The Art of Inclusion by David A. Anderson.  Gracism, unlike racism, doesn’t focus on race for negative purposes such as discrimination.  Gracism focuses on race for the purpose of positive ministry and service.  When the grace of God can be communicated through the beauty of race, then you have gracism.  That’s the reconciliation Jesus wants in Matthew 5.

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Freedom from Hate & Divisions

Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it. Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it. Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it. - Martin Luther King, Jr.

As we enter the month of June, my focus shifts to the Sixth Commandment, commonly known as “Thou shalt not kill.”  But Leviticus 19 verses 16 and 17 take it further, “Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor’s life…  Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart.”  Jesus provided a similar emphasis in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-22) when he said, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

Both the Old & New Testaments acknowledge that violence, long before it becomes action, starts in the heart. That is why the Bible challenges us to guard our hearts against hatred, envy, and bitterness.

We’re not doing too well when it comes to that particular admonition…  The New York Times even has a segment entitled “This Week in Hate.”  The June 1, 2017 article noted how a black college student was fatally stabbed in College Park, Maryland days before he would have graduated. Two men were killed and another wounded when they tried to stop a man’s hateful rant against Muslim women on a train in Portland, Oregon. Finally, a Los Angeles home owned by NBA star LeBron James was vandalized with racial slurs.

LeBron explained, “We got a long way to go, for us as a society and for us as African-Americans, until we feel equal in America. Hate in America, especially for African-Americans, is living every day.”

I recently read Benjamin Watson’s book Under Our Skin, which has some helpful insights.  I encourage you to see what you, too, can learn from the Baltimore Ravens’ Tight End.

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