Freedom: When Religion Becomes Unreasonable – Thoughts From Graceland
Last Friday, August 16, marked the 42 year anniversary of the passing of Elvis Presley. How Elvis died is still the subject of discussion and speculation. (Of course there are those who say he is still alive) What is certain to most, he succumbed while at his Memphis estate, Graceland. It appears that Graceland was the place Elvis could find solitude, shelter from the constant media drone and perhaps some peace. I think many of us, in that regard, would like to find our own Graceland, the place where rest, peace and wholeness reside – the place where grace abounds.
Pastor Ed in this past weekend’s continuation of the Freedom series highlighted grace as one of the key points to consider. Ed stated a mark of Christian maturity was how we handled grace. Have we received grace from God? Do we live in grace and give grace to others? The answers to these questions are a good indicator of our level of maturity.
Our current culture, whether it is in entertainment, politics, news stories, social media posts, or everyday interaction, evidences a significant absence of grace. It can be said we live in UnGraceland. Just this morning as I plodded on the treadmill at the gym, ESPN was carrying on a debate on whether the action of a notable and very successful man was an act of “selling out” his convictions. What seemed clear to me was many who did not know or have all the information spoke in very ungracious ways. Even among Christians leaders confrontation, argument, accusations of heresy, labeling, and scholarly assassination takes place. Our communities also reflect this lack of grace. And as in many issues, it often begins in the home. So how do we break this cycle of ungraciousness?
We live in a world that operates on what I term the “exchange theory.” Businesses count on this, offering service or product in exchange for a return of value, usually, money. Unfortunately we conduct our relationship in a similar fashion. You are kind to me I will be kind to you. You do me wrong I will return wrong. I will give you “love” in exchange for something I need. You get the picture. Pastor Ed states the first place we need to go is to encounter grace; grace as in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus first loved us and gave Himself for us in the ultimate act of graciousness. We are undeserving and do not merit this level of unconditional love. Having received it, it is the work of Christ-followers to pay it forward out of respect and appreciation for Christ. I think it is easier for recipients of grace to give grace. If this is true, then our acts of graciousness can set the tone for gracious relationships. Although transforming this nation into a “graceland” may be unreachable, there is little doubt in my mind that in our homes, our church and in our workplaces, we can establish mini-gracelands. Attached to and empowered by Jesus Christ, our acts of grace will change lives.
The question is as Pastor Ed asked, have you encountered grace?