The Kingdom of truth, beauty, and goodness does not come by convincing people we are right at any cost or by cramming our truth down someone’s throat. The Kingdom of truth, beauty, and goodness comes through something much more powerful than our attempts to persuade.
This article is an excerpt from the new release, Belonging.
Recently, I stood in line at Einstein Bros. Bagels for my morning treat of a perfect toasted cinnamon raisin bagel slathered with peanut butter. The line was not moving. I looked at my watch and noted I had twenty minutes to get to work. I sighed loudly and looked at the man in line behind me for some commiseration. He was dressed in an expensive suit and polished wing-tip shoes. I thought he would get it. He’s busy, like I am. I mumbled under my breath, “You’d think they could have more than one person behind the counter.” The line remained still. I started tapping my foot and making louder disgruntled noises. “I don’t know how hard it is to get someone who can slice a bagel.”
The important-looking man behind me spoke softly: “I think this may be her first day.”
I did not take a cue from his kind tone. I continued, more loudly, “Well, you’d think they’d know not to train her during the busiest time of the day.” By this time, I didn’t care who heard me. I was certain everyone else was just as outraged as me.
But then the man behind me—suit, starched white shirt, polished shoes, and all—did the most surprising thing.
He jumped over the counter and said to the bewildered new employee, “It looks like you can use some help. Just tell me what you want me to do.”
The dialogue in the line to get bagels was certainly not as significant as the politically charged conversation after my small group. Or was it? If any of the other people in line or behind the counter were hungry for more than bagels—hungry for acceptance, mercy, connection, meaning, or grace—who do you think they’d want to talk to? Me, with my self-rightness plastered all over my face? Or the man from behind me in line, who now had cream cheese smeared on his fancy suit?
Common grace believes that every interaction with anyone could be the moment we get to turn the world upside down by making that moment about care, graciousness, peace, kindness, hope, a sense we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously, and a conviction it is not all about us.
Before we can change the conversation or invite others into the conversation, we need change in us—deep down where offenses are cultivated, fears grow, and what we really believe about God is revealed.
Rather than being rooted in personal offenses, we’re invited into a dance in celebration of common grace. The next time you are personally offended, read these words. They might reveal what being personally offended is covering up:
If you think that leaves you on high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. Romans 2:1-2
Our sins nailed Jesus to the cross, where he bore hell for us. All our offenses were laid on him (Isaiah 59:12)—our DUIs, gossip, envy, little white lies, big gaping lies, fudged income-tax returns, relational violence in the line at Einstein Bros. Bagels. Once we’ve stood before the crucified Savior and embraced his story, it’s hard to be personally offended with someone else.
The Kingdom of truth, beauty, and goodness does not come by convincing people we are right at any cost or by cramming our truth down someone’s throat. The Kingdom of truth, beauty, and goodness comes through something much more powerful than our attempts to persuade. Jesus set the Kingdom in motion when he was crucified, and he invites us into the building of that Kingdom with these words: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24, NLT). The Kingdom is about letting go of another person’s throat.
What if we entered every conversation with a cross on our backs? Before we file that away as a platitude, we need to remember crosses are for getting crucified by those who hate us because we love them. Crosses are for bearing another person’s hell. Crosses are for carrying another person’s wounds—sometimes the wounds of those who have hurt us. Love always leaves a mark.
It’s easier to be personally offended than it is to be crucified. It’s easier to be personally offended than to invite someone you don’t understand or approve of to lunch. It’s easier to be personally offended than to ask questions. It’s easier to be personally offended than to risk getting involved with people who might hurt you. But instead of cultivating offenses, do we have the courage to pick up a cross?
Belonging by Sharon A. Hersh
The reality is, God created us with an innate desire to belong to something more than us. When we integrate our story within God’s first story about us, we can bravely face ourselves and discover the truth of belonging and worthiness that God has written. And we start to imagine how to invite others into a greater sense of belonging.
The journey to finding ourselves and one another is not for the faint of heart. It’s messy. It’s hard work. It’s worth it. We can have a front-row seat to a tectonic shift, not just on the surface of our lives, but in places deep down inside as we recognize common grace in the beautiful and terrible parts of our lives. In other words, every chapter in our stories, every conversation, and every character is part of the way back to belonging. You are invited to the very edge of your seat to anticipate what could happen in you and others if you engage with the unexpected grace that passionately declares life is not all about our pain, our accomplishments, our rights, our abuse, our power, or our beliefs. It is about us finding our way. Together. It is about a supernatural interconnectedness to a deeper story that invades every nook and cranny of our lives with light and love—because we belong to one another.