We sat at the kitchen table, sipping our coffee and savoring a few early-morning moments before our youngest three kids woke up to get ready for virtual school.
“I just don’t understand people sometimes,” I said. “How hard is it to be kind?” Over the past year, we’ve noticed an overall increase in sharp and grace-less words from the people we encounter, including strangers we bump into at the gas station as well as friends we interact with in person or online. It seems like nerves are frayed and patience thin, and they have been for months now. On this particular morning, it was wearing through our own self-control and patience.
“Has everyone lost their minds? I just don’t get it.” I shook my head, trying to make sense of it all.
Of course, no sooner had the words left my mouth than I had visions of my own unkind words and impatient responses in the days before. My utter impatience with kids who are home every day but don’t pick up after themselves. My annoyance with a grocery delivery service that didn’t get my order right. And my overwhelming frustration with an entire school year that feels like it’s been wasted.
The truth is this has been an extraordinary year — not because of the multitude of crises, but because of the globalization of them. We’ve all had hard years before — seasons when a struggling relationship, financial challenge, or difficult diagnosis weigh heavy and take us off our game.
But for the last twelve months, in addition to our individual crises and challenges, we’ve weathered more than one global crisis. Like a sinking ship, we’re each looking for someone to save us. But the problem is we’re all drowning. As a result, we claw and grab and, inadvertently, take each other down.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Philippians 1:27 (NIV)
I read these words and immediately needed to stop and read them again.
Whatever happens —
If I’m treated justly, or if I’m not.
If my children grow up to embrace faith in Jesus, or they do not.
If my health stays strong, or it does not.
If my marriage grows and thrives, or if it does not.
If injustices are dealt with, or if they are not.
If viruses and pandemics become a thing of the past, or if they do not.
If our nation becomes a place of hope and safety and unity for all, or if it does not.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
The conviction I felt was hot, sharp, and immediate. There is no list of exceptions, no “get out of jail free” card if this happens or that happens. Instead, Paul makes it clear to the church in Philippi as well as to you and me: We’ve been given the gift of the gospel, the good news of unmerited grace, sacrificial love, eternity promised in the presence of the God who gave it all for us. That means, we have something solid to cling to, even when it seems the world’s ship is sinking.
The question you and I must ask: Am I living as if this were true?
Am I responding to the day’s news with both appropriate grief over the condition of our world and confident hope in the One who holds the world in His hands?
Am I seeing the inherent value of the people I encounter as children of the same God, even when we don’t agree or get along?
Am I offering the same grace and mercy when someone fails or disappointments me as I have been given from my Father?
Am I living worthy of the gospel of Christ, the incredible good news that I am loved, forgiven, safe, and provided for?
I can only answer this for myself. And I must do so day by day, moment by moment. This life is hard and confusing. And this won’t be the last time we’ll find our nerves frayed and patience thin. But we have a promise of a promised land, a hope that will not disappoint, a future that will be free of tears and fears and pandemics. And that means, although the ship will go down, we will not drown.
Let’s live that way.Leave a Comment