I was given the opportunity to write a couple of Christmas letters for a man in New York who is a landlord. Someone I had never met and most likely will never see. He requested these letters on Craigslist. So being the great letter writer that I think I am, I responded. The first one was written to a family from England who were his tenants in New York. They were to return home soon and he wanted to show them his gratitude for their friendship and hopefully future communication after leaving the states. He commended them for their parenting skills and praised the children’s respect for adults.
The second letter was even more unique. This landlord began to explain how he was made fun of each year at his family Christmas gathering. So much, that it had been years since he had attended. It was evident that his heart was broken. He then told me that he had a lifestyle that his family did not approve of. My first thought was to react just as his family had. I knew that I did not condone this, but was it my place to condemn? The Spirit stopped me before I spoke. Instead of throwing darts at him, I was able to share with him the love of Christ. I told him that even though I did not agree with this choice, I felt that it was important to show Christ’s love to everyone. I crafted a letter for him to his family with those same thoughts and how he longed for a healthy relationship with them. I only hope that the message made a difference this Christmas for him and for his family. I pray that this “dose of grace” helped him to see that God loves him, no matter what choices he has made.
In Matthew 7:1-3 (NIV), the scripture tells us..."Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
Another opportunity sent me to the floor for a little gutt wrenching, old-fashioned ,“on my knees” prayer. You could say that I have learned what unconditional love really is. Some friends going through adversity shared their story with me. It’s was as if God said, “Ok, Ann, what cha’ gonna’ do with this one? You can cast the first stone or you can view the situation through My eyes."
It is only because of Christ’s love that lives within me that I was able to love unconditionally in this situation. This is simply what the Spirit prompted me to do. My human side would have reacted like most others. I’m not perfect and I desire unconditional love from those around me.
In Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV), we are instructed to “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
As you approach the new year, I pray that you will spend time in God’s word and be ready to give an account of your words. Jesus spoke about this in Matthew 12:36 (NIV). “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” Yes, I know there were times that Jesus responded with a righteous anger when people were being mistreated or when the moneychangers were taking advantage of the poor people in the temple, but when someone was lost in sin, he responded with unconditional love and grace and he told them to sin no more.
My New Year’s resolution this year has several goals, but at the top of the list is to strive to be more Christ-like in my responses.
May your New Year, Twenty – Ten be filled with unconditional love and huge doses of grace!