A really horrible event has happened over the past few days to a family who are dear friends of ours. Really a terrible nightmare of a situation. This is why I've been incommunicado for the past few days (and, given the direction of events, probably will be for several more days.) There's been a lot to deal with. I'm not going to go into specifics at the moment because 1) I don't think it's appropriate for me to at this point and 2) we really don't know most of the details yet so it's highly unhelpful to speculate based upon scraps of information.
However, I mention it in a blog entry here for a few reasons, first as an explanation as to why I owe a lot of people phone calls right now. If you're one of them, I have not forgotten you. Please forgive me. Second, to ask all readers who are inclined toward prayer in any manifestation to please keep us, our families, our church and especially our friends' family in prayer. Third, and most specifically, to throw out a few quick reflections while they're in the front of my head this evening so that they don't disappear into the ether in the days to come...
The first is, as Christians, we are supposed to be vessels of mercy, not vessels of wrath and judgment. A saying that is repeated often around our house are words to the effect of "How you know that God is still extending grace to a someone is that they are still alive."
Or, as Laurie has written elsewhere recently, "Do you truly believe Christ came to save the WORST of sinners? If you don't, you have no hope. If you do, extend his grace to the guiltiest."
We are recipients of completely undeserved grace and need to proceed accordingly, treat others accordingly.
Also on my mind is the passage I read in my studies the other morning from the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus instructs His disciples to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves" (I think the version I was using said "harmless as doves.") This is a rough world and a rough life which, in my experience, can go from ecstatic joy to abysmal sorrow in moments without warning. One never knows when tragedy is going to come, so I think it's best to not be a person marked by levity, but one who is very much marked by tenderness. I know when the cotton is high people like to be around the joker, the mocker, the person who presents themselves as above others, but when everything goes wrong that is not the person you want to go to for comfort.
I'm reading a book by Martyn-Lloyd Jones where he talks about wearing despair as a Christian, being downcast and so forth. He is speaking against being like that. He mentions that when one does that it's a horrible testimony. It does not recommend the Gospel to anyone. I felt a little convicted by that, having indulged in my share of grim and depressed attitudes in the past. A Christian should be marked by grace and the joy that accompanies God's undeserved grace. There is a significant difference between crass levity and earnest joyfulness.
Finally, I want to encourage everyone to love one another. Be gracious and tender. Life is far too short to be contentious and certainly none of us are in a position to consider ourselves qualitatively better than anyone else. We never have a right to do that. We are all sinners and all of us are capable of anything.
So, whoever you are, I love you. Please pray for me for strength, wisdom and peace (as well as for Laurie and pretty much all of my family and peer group as well.) More soon.