My friend looked pensive as I stepped into the coffee shop.
“Here I am supposed to be leading this group – and by the way, I hate that word ‘leading’! – and all I know is that no matter what I do I tend to step on people. I talk too much, I’m too forward, and I will hurt people. How do you ‘do’ this group thing when you know that sooner or later, one way or another, you will end up hurting people?”
At least that’s the gist of what I heard as I listened for some time, asking for little clarifications and making little comments along the way.
No real solution. And certainly no formula.
Only the fresh realization that indeed “in many things we all stumble” and thus that hurting others and being misunderstood is a given for anyone who opens their mouth or ever attempts anything.
But through it all, I heard the old quote (Augustine?) to “love God and do as you please.” But it came out of my mouth a little differently.
You are a servant of Christ. You bring your all, the whole you, in Christ, into every conversation, every interaction. And in Christ you can do no wrong. In ourselves, by ourselves, as ourselves unenlightened, unlifted, untransformed by the love of God in Christ, still warped by the strong inward curvature “which pulls everything, consciously and unconciously into the orbit of the self” (Luther), we can but wrong and trample and tear down one another – no matter how much we graffiti the name of Jesus over our actions and words. But whatever we do in Christ endures. Whatever we do as servants of Christ in the full import of those words will be a beautiful picture that will adorn heaven’s murals. Think on that picture a bit. In Christ (who is over all and through all and in you all) we are collectively painting in our daily words and deeds the ultimate mural that will fill the new heavens and the new earth, there and back again.
Or as Paul would put it, all our words and deeds in Christ become an eternal sweet aroma of life among those who are saved and conversely the stench of death among those who are perishing – especially, and ironically, those who are the most ‘religious’ among us. But of course, just about everything stinks to the most ‘religious’ among us.
But think on it. In Christ you can do no wrong.
What freedom from the paralyzing calculations and miscalculations of “should I say this or do this or not say this and not do this” based on how we think others will be pleased or displeased. What freedom just to be and speak and do as one in Christ and let him make what he will of what I do and say as one who abides in him.
What freedom empowering us to be among friends or among enemies for that matter.
My friend seemed a bit less pensive as I left – or perhaps that was wishful thinking on my part. But in Christ that even ceases to be important. As a servant of Christ my task is first to be, and then to speak and act from that ground of being in Christ as I and all I am orbits him. Results are in the hands of him who “makes things grow.” Was this water? Was it sunshine? Was it manure? It matters not. In Christ it is all good.
And we can both go on our way rejoicing.