over the years, I’m leaning more toward grace…

img_4525-001Being December, I can safely predict this blog will be more photo driven than usual. As a general rule it’s fair to say that I’m a writer who uses a few photographs to help tell the story. But, the closer we get to Christmas, the more I’ll be a photographer who uses a few words to help people see the images.

Bottom line, I’m a writer. My books have sold – all told – approaching 50,000 copies, and without a single picture anywhere other than on the covers. But I have to admit that in this soundbite culture, soundbite images often grab people’s attention well before the words.

But today is all about the words. First, here’s the scripture that grabbed my attention this morning, and set the ball rolling (thanks to my friends at Upper Room Ministries for directing my attention to this passage).

Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
    will find life and honor. – Proverbs 21:21


We hear a lot of noise in this culture about being right. People – especially religious fundamentalists – not only want to demonstrate how right they are, but they seem equally committed to pointing out how wrong everyone else is!

But righteousness is not so much about being right as it is about right living. Righteousness and justice come from the same root Hebrew idea, and right living is therefore more interested in securing justice for those who are oppressed than it is in seeking justification for one’s own narrow viewpoints and – in consequence – further oppressing those who are already marginalized.

That’s why the scriptures so often couple kindness with righteousness. It’s as if God is looking into the future, and noting how unkind religion can be when being right consistently takes precedence over just about everything else, including justice, and – sadly – kindness.

There’s an idea I used recently that I think is original (but writers can never be sure because our work is always in some sense derivative). I wrote – I’m paraphrasing myself -that Jesus stands, always, as an open invitation, that Jesus described himself as The Gate, and that not a single Christian in history has ever been called to be a gatekeeper, standing between any of God’s children and the Kingdom.

[Jesus said] “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will be able to come in and go out. They will find everything they need. A thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. But I came to give life—life that is full and good.” – John 1:9-10

Kindness our watchword!

This is where kindness must be our watchword as God’s redeemed people. Kindness, and grace. I have taken note of my stance on various issues over the years, how I am a constant work in progress. I wrote once in the Tampa Tribune that, “I disagree with myself on a regular basis,” and that, “I am likely wrong as frequently as I am right…”

So I will add today that, the more years I spend on this planet, the more likely I am to err on the side of grace rather than judgment. We all walk a tightrope of indecision sometimes, and if I am going to make a mistake – which is likely – then I would rather err on the side of grace. If I am going to stand in front of God and have to do some explaining, I would rather God said:

  • “Derek, you were too much of a softie, you were too gracious, too kind, too much of the time…” than,
  • “Derek, your harshness and judgmental spirit kept people out of my Kingdom! Why did you so often work to bar a gate that Jesus left open, inviting everyone to come inside?”

“And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

In love, and because of love – DEREK

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