Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the scriptures be fulfilled, which say it must happen in this way?” – Matthew 16
Interestingly, just before Devin Patrick Kelley entered a small Baptist church in Texas yesterday morning, determined to kill as many people as he could, my adult Sunday morning Bible-study class had just finished a conversation about Peter and Judas – denial and betrayal.
(The weapon Kelley had, by the way, was designed for exactly the purpose for which he used it – wrap your mind around that for a second.)
As a class, we talked about the constant opportunity we have to make choices. It’s seldom the big things that shape who we are, but the thousands of small decisions we make from moment to moment. When I wake up do I take five minutes to center my thoughts and intentions on God for the coming day? When I say good morning to Rebekah, do I load the moment with love and kindness? Do I turn on media (of any kind) during breakfast, or do I talk with my family? Is the last thing I say before I leave “I love you”? Do I let this guy into traffic or rant at the intrusion? Do I listen to destructive talk radio? Do I calm my mind with good music? Or do I give thanks and pray?
Fact is, by the time we arrive at work (or whatever it is that we’re up to) we have already made literally hundreds of small decisions, conscious and unconscious, choices that shape the person we are and that contribute to the more critical tipping points when – inevitably – they come.
So what has this to do with the horrible events that took place in Texas Sunday morning?
I’ll answer that by paraphrasing a comment made Sunday morning by one of our elders, Ray Evans, while he was speaking about generosity. He referenced an observation that, for indigenous peoples, generosity only finds its real meaning when it is put into motion. The benefit of generosity is revealed in its movement. How does a gift motivate, equip, inspire the recipient of that gift to “pay it forward” and – likewise – to grow a more generous spirit?
Just as the opposite of love is not so much hate as it is fear, the effective antithesis of hate is more likely generosity. When we cultivate a generous spirit we do so via a thousand choices whereby we build a culture of goodwill, compassion, kindness, peace, and goodness – the positive practice of love.
It is the “movement” of these attributes, putting what we have received from God into practice, a dozen, a score, a hundred, a million small decisions of grace in motion that not only shape who we are but infiltrate our relationships, our churches, our neighborhoods – ultimately our entire community.
The real question for all of us is how do we reach more people, more families, more individuals, more of the desperate and the broken (such as Devin Kelley, and the Las Vegas shooter) with this cloud, this aspiration of grace in motion?
Sunday night on the news I heard a pastor say that churches need to post armed guards at the doors. But what we need isn’t armed guards, it’s equipped saints.
We need to so soak this land in the rich witness of love and light, the kind of applied grace spills all over everyone. Through you, and through me. A multitude of small decisions at a time.
“Put away your swords,” Jesus said, “that kind of response is nowhere near the direction of my plan.”
In love, and because of love – DEREK