Where are the gentle and generous Christians -- the ones as gentle and generous as Jesus Christ?
While Jesus challenged the Pharisees, overturned tables in the temple, and claimed that he would divide families, he also described himself as gentle and lowly in heart. He invited his followers to deny themselves, to lose their lives, to be last and servants of all, to become like little children, to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love their enemies and to forgive 77 times.
He ate with outcasts, healed untouchables, and defended the poor and victimized. In his parables, the lost ones are found, rich ones are poor, and the latecomers get equal pay.
At Peace Presbyterian and in other churches using the Revised Common Lectionary, we have been reading the Book of James, which challenges us to be persons of integrity, because faith without works is dead. James challenges us to listen, to exercise great control with our words and our anger, and to be generous toward the poor. James teaches that friends of God are wise, gentle, peaceable, and humble. They have not a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.
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I could name all kinds of hypocrisy and partiality in our society. I am tempted to glare at the world in all its sectors and see the many ways people lack gentleness, kindness, and respect -- especially in an election season.
But then I am reminded of Jesus' words about judging others. Oops! I should be thinking about the log in my own eye, instead of focusing on the speck in my neighbor's eye. I should be working out my own salvation with fear and trembling, remembering that it is God at work in me, enabling me both to will and to work.
Where are the gentle and generous Christians, ones gentle and generous as the Christ? The question comes back to me. Am I gentle and kind, humble, compassionate, patient and willing to yield? Am I cultivating a Christ-like life of fruitfulness and generosity? If I'm going to claim the name, Christian, then I'd better be working toward living into the same. James teaches that a harvest of righteousness comes from sowing seeds of peace.
I invite you to sow peace with us, as we welcome an Indonesian pastor for the week of World Communion Sunday (October 4-9) to teach us about life where Christians are a 1 percent minority and where human trafficking is a huge problem. Send elementary children to Peace in the Park on October 22 (a teacher work day) to teach peacemaking skills for family, neighborhood, country and world.
Be part of a church where differences of opinion about theology and politics may be gently and respectfully expressed. We commit ourselves daily to live more faithfully into our name as Christians.
The Rev. Elizabeth M. Deibert is pastor of Peace Presbyterian Church, 10902 Technology Terrace, Lakewood Ranch. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 941-753-7778.