PURCHASE UNOFFENDABLE NOW AT AMAZON.COM
And now we can get to the good part, the reason the Christian worldview is not
cynicism: We get to marvel at the goodness that humans often produce.
Okay, we recognize that we humans are prone to dig in and make excuses for ourselves...but then you have that talk with a friend who did something to you, and he actually humbles himself and apologizes?
That's a beautiful thing.
Someone happily sacrifices her own hard-earned money to help a family in poverty?
Gaze at it.
Someone sees that you're burdened in an airport security line, and lets you go ahead of her?
Someone who has every reason to be upset at you just lets the matter drop?
Pause and take it in.
It's not the rule. It's the beautiful exception.
True story: A friend of mine who did not believe in God haphazardly drove her car into a road construction worker and cost him his legs. From a hospital bed...he forgave her
. She now believes in God.
Another true story: A few days ago, there was a funeral for a friend of mine. Jerry was a doctor who served the poor in Afghanistan and in Chicago. After arriving for work at CURE International's hospital in Kabul, he was shot and killed by a rogue Afghan police officer.
I cried when I heard about Jerry's death. It still hurts. I loved him. But I cried again, in awe, when I saw his wife, Jan, forgiving his killer just a day after it happened. "We don't know the backstory," she said. And Jerry was there because he knew Jesus loves the people of Afghanistan.
Yes, the world is broken. But don't be offended by it. Instead, thank God
that He's intervened in it, and He's going to restore it to everything it was meant to be. His kingdom is breaking through, bit by bit. Recognize it, and wonder at it.
War is not exceptional; peace is. Worry is not exceptional; trust is. Decay is not exceptional; restoration is. Anger is not exceptional; gratitude is. Selfishness is not exceptional; sacrifice is. Defensiveness is not exceptional; love is.
And judgmentalism is not exceptional...
But grace is.
Recognize our current state, and then replace the shock and anger with gratitude. Someone cuts you off on your commute?
Just expect it. No big deal. Let it drop, and then be thankful for the person, that exceptional person, who lets you merge. See the human heart for what it is, adjust expectations, and be grateful, not angry.
When you see, in the midst of all this mess, beautiful glimpses of God's kingdom, defined by love, breathe it in. It's like the line from the motion picture The Village
, where a young, blind woman risks a dangerous journey for a friend: "She is more capable than most in this village. And she is led by love. The world moves for love. It kneels before it in awe."
The world kneels before love...in awe!
Recognize our brokenness, and then gaze at the beauty of God's manifested love and grace breaking into the world. It happened two thousand years ago, when wise men traveled thousands of miles, and you know what they did: They knelt before it in awe.
That's because grace is amazing. For now, grace is the exception, and it's a beautiful one.
Something happened a few weeks ago that I haven't been able to tell anyone except my wife. It was the most remarkable thing that's ever happened in my radio career.
There's a man who's in one of the worst, most brutal prisons in the world. It's in a nation where freedom of religion is notoriously disallowed, and this man, this prisoner, is a believer in Jesus. He was arrested for precisely that, and he has been beaten and tortured as a result.
On a Saturday, his wife sent me an e-mail and told me that, amazingly, her husband was listening to my radio station at that very moment, from within the crowded confines of his tiny cell. Someone had smuggled in a phone, and she was holding her phone up to a radio speaker from her home in the States. "A whole group is listening, new believers, some Muslims. They're listening to whatever you say." He used to listen to our station every day and sing our songs with his kids. He was desperate to hear some music, or an encouraging word, she said. He'd been away from them for more than a year. He was worried he'd been forgotten by all but a few.
I drove to the station--about a two-minute drive--and went on the air. I couldn't say that he was listening, due to the security risk. But I mentioned him, the fact that millions of people were praying for him, and how much I respected him as a man and a brother in Christ.
I got to talk about how God sees prisoners, knows of their plight, and promises to rescue them. While the Koran never speaks of a God who loves, the God of the Bible loves prison- ers so much that He identifies with them. He died between two thieves. And in Psalms, He "sets...prisoners [to] singing" (68:6).
"So maybe," I told my listeners, "if you happen to be listening in a prison somewhere, maybe you could sing along with this simple song..." I then played a remix of a song called "How Great Is Our God," in multiple languages. After that I talked more about how we have not forgotten about those in prison, then played a song called, "How He Loves," followed by another song, the one that the prisoner had last sung with his kids, when he put them to bed before leaving home.
All the while, the prisoner's wife continued e-mailing me:
"He's listening! They're all listening! He's singing! I'm bawl- ing...I can't stop crying. This music means so much to him."
They were disconnected after a half hour.
If you were to pick a spot on a world map and put a pushpin in the single most unlikely place on the planet where people would be singing along with "How Great Is Our God" and hearing about the love of God, it would have been at that prison and that dark, dank cell in the middle of the Middle
Eastern night, where desperate men are starved for hope.
But grace has no borders. Love breaks through, and--just as Jesus said of the church--the gates of hell will not prevail against it. Yes, the world is broken, and selfishness is our default setting. But that's all the more reason we get goose bumps when there's a ray of light, and we can suddenly see the kingdom from here, where things are set right.
Yes, we all deal with crazy people. Judgmental people. People who believe, deep down, that their job, after being invited into the party that is the kingdom of God, is to keep others out of the party, and then pat themselves on the back for "taking a stand." I hear from them often.
But then there are people like this imprisoned man, who, after being taken from his family, unjustly tried, and beaten senseless...hugs his jailors
And then, standing in an empty studio, I get to play a simple song about the goodness of God. I sing along, knowing he's huddled in darkness with other outcasts, and they're singing too.
I want to seize those
moments; the true, the pure, the lovely. Yeah, there are the "Bert and Ernie" letters, but then there's this. I opt to seize this.
When we recognize our unsurprising fallenness and keepour eyes joyfully open for the glorious exceptions, we're much less offendable. Why? Because that's the thing about gratitude and anger: They can't coexist. It's one or the other.
One drains the very life from you. The other fills your life with wonder.
PURCHASE UNOFFENDABLE NOW AT AMAZON.COM