Following Jesus in the Real World: Rules of engagement

by Dave Burchett
Posted on Monday, April 13, 2009, at 3:53 pm

Last week we launched this weekly foray into living out the truths of the Gospel in difficult and even toxic work environments. I was heartened by the initial response and enthusiasm for the topic. But I have learned a lot from my experience as a life long evantologist (field study of evangelicals). I hope to become known as the Jane Goodall of evangelical behavioral studies. It is dirty work but someone has to do it. Can't you hear the narrator's rich voice intoning my research?

"With nostrils flaring the alpha elder rushed the deacon who threatened his pack leadership."

Note to self: Call National Geographic Channel next to schedule the pilot production.

One of the things that I have learned is that every cyber discussion leader runs the risk of being smacked down by marauding herds of spiritual hall monitors. They seem to spend all day roaming cyberspace looking for someone or something to "correct." I want this location to be a place of grace. It must be a place of grace for people to feel safe enough to share their hearts.

If you have a verse for everything without knowing the person or circumstance, then this may not be your cup of tea. If your world is always black and white and never gray, then this may not be the best place for you. If you always know what you would do and what others should do, then this may be a bad rest stop for you. And we cracked pots and limping followers of Christ are likely not ready for your level of maturity and certainty. Check back with us later after the Holy Spirit has more time with us. We will only frustrate you right now.

This will also be a place where we will attempt humor and often with limited success. If you think faith and funny should never intersect, then this is not a good place to visit.

I want this to be a discussion where we allow for comments and thoughts that may not agree with your convictions. I love that Jesus is described by the Apostle John as being full of grace and truth. I suspect grace comes first because we have a far harder time communicating with grace. I am usually willing to be "honest" and tell you where you are wrong. Doing that with grace and truth requires me to love you and be vulnerable. It is much easier just to whack you with the rolled up newspaper of judgment. This discussion will not work if we do not keep our wheels firmly on both tracks of grace and truth.

I get so tired of judgmental comments. All of us need the grace of the Lord Jesus in this difficult journey. It would help a lot if we could extend and receive grace from one another as well. So speak the truth in love. Respond in truth and grace. There is no need to CYBERSHOUT. Anyone who can't understand your point in regular fonts will be as unlikely to get them in all caps. Please allow people to be discouraged, weak, and sad. It is often part of the healing process. When wounded and tired Christians feel like they are candidates for the "Island of Misfit Toys," then they are just about ready to quit struggling in self-effort and start trusting God. We need to encourage them through difficult seasons with the hope of real change in Jesus. I pray this will be a place that fills buckets and not drains them. Paul gave some pretty good advice for us to meditate on as we begin this journey:

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. (Colossians 4, NIV)


And let's review . . .

  1. This is a "Place of Grace." Legalists may be asked to wait outside.
  2. Grace and truth always travel together.
  3. Keep the Judge's Robes in the closet. Dress here is casual.

I would love to hear your comments and challenges in living for Jesus in the real world. Let's explore them together. And remember to keep it graceful!

Dave Burchett

Dave is a former WORLD contributor.

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