Gracious Engagement. A Word from our Diocesan Bishop Steve Wood.

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One of the most amazing attributes Jesus demonstrated was his ability to engage people from every strata of society.  Matthew the tax man who became a disciple; Peter the fisherman who became a fisher of men; Nicodemus the scholar and teacher of the law; the prostitute who washed His feet with her tears; the untouchable lepers who found a healing touch; the little children who climbed on His lap; Jairus whose daughter died.

His open-hearted accessibility and love of others, even for His enemies, would become the ethic by which the early church thrived.  So much so that the non-Christian world commenting on the life of the church said of them, “See how they love each other” (Justin).  Throughout church history, Christians have, with varying degrees of success, taken seriously the truth expressed by Paul in 2 Corinthians: “that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.  And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (5.19). The consequence?  No other religion has crossed as many sociological and religious barriers as Christianity.

It is this attitude of gracious engagement that springs from our recognition that we are all equally in need of salvation and share a common bond as the objects of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross that is the distinguishing characteristic of every effective disciple-making congregation.

As you consider the manner of your life, the people and the places that you devote your time, and energy (check your daily planner), and your money (check your bank statement and budget), is it clear that your life – your church – demonstrates that same love for others?  Are you creating an atmosphere in your life, your home, your church, that reflects the love of God for all people – from every nation, tribe, language and people? (Revelation 7.9)

Do you remember the first time you went to church?  Can you remember the anxiety of “standing out?”  Remember the uncertainty of not knowing what to do, where to go or where to sit?  I certainly do.  Over the years I regularly meet folks desperately searching for meaning, truly searching after God, feeling these things upon entering the doors of a church. We have the privilege of joining Christ in our community – building bridges between God and His people.  Engaging and serving them as Christ would – and did.

For His Kingdom,

+Steve

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