Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Space (01/23/06)
TITLE: Gracious Space
By Karen Heslink
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full of compassion
Then I ask you, just how gracious is your space? What can you do to make it the kind of gracious space God intended?
Gracious churches are friendly. They are filled with good-natured people who are ready to please others. Notice the word kind in the word kindle (to ignite, to catch fire). Wouldn’t it be a wonderful moment for our heavenly Father if we all kindled our faith by reaching out and drawing in those who are down-trodden, those in need, and those who are hurting. To be gentle and loving towards our fellow man (and woman) is certainly the model set for us by the life of Jesus who paid in kind for our sins. How can we possibly do less?
Emily Post must stand aghast today at the lack of manners and common courtesy we show one another. What happened to the days when please, thank you and you’re welcome were part of every day conversation? We live in a world today that seems to thrive on a lack of respect. It is time for our gracious spaces to rise up and create a renewal of courteous behavior. Our children learn by watching us. Their behavior mimics ours. Let us not forget that. It should be easy to give others consideration, to take into account a person’s circumstances before forming an opinion. Yet, we all do love to express our opinions! Not only do we love opinions, but many of us thrive on repeating those opinions as if they were fact! Who among us has not titillated over a juicy piece of gossip across the church aisle? As early as Exodus 23:1 God warns us about gossip and rumors. Become the one who stops the gossip or the rumor. Become the one who seeks the truth in all circumstances. Become the one who stands up and says this will be a gracious space full of courtesy for one another.
Compassion is larger than sympathy. The compassionate person not only has sympathy for the sorrow or suffering of another but also wishes to help. Compassionate means we are genuine in our sympathy and helpful in ways that honor both God and the recipient. Drop off the casserole and you are sympathetic. Stay, serve the meal, clean up afterwards and you are compassionate. God’s promise for this is found in Lamentations 3:21-22. “…for his compassions never fail” (NIV). God’s love and compassion, his promise of forgiveness and restoration are for the entire body. Let not our gracious spaces become exclusionary or club-like. Let our compassion flow into the streets around us and may all of us become disciples, evangelists, healers and helpers in the name of our heavenly Father.
Mercy is a tricky concept. It involves both kindness and compassion, but with a twist. Mercy often refers to the way we treat those that are in our power or under our thumb in one way or another. Just as we depend on God’s mercy, there are others in all our lives that depend on our mercy. It may be a husband, a child, an elderly parent, that person who sits near you in church or maybe even a neighbor. (Remember what God said about neighbors?!) Mercy requires patience. God knew what he was doing when he made patience a fruit of the spirit! Over and over in the Bible God shows his patience for man (and woman). From Genesis 8:21 where he says, “Never again will I curse the ground because of man…” to Ephesians 4:32 where Paul writes, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NIV), it seems to me that mercy pulls it all together. Every gracious space needs kindness, courtesy, compassion and mercy.
How does your gracious space measure up?
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