This series of posts focuses on the Common Disciplines that are the underpinnings of the Renovare organization’s understanding of discipleship. These disciplines are based on the six streams of Christianity described in Richard Fosters book Streams of Living Water, Celebrating the Six Great Traditions of the Christian Faith. For other posts in this series go to the home page, then to Categories on the right side of the menu and click on Continual Renewal: The Renovare Way to Discipleship.
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Common Discipline #4: By God’s grace, I will endeavor to serve others everywhere I can and will work for justice in all human relations and social structures. (The Social Justice Tradition)
If you look closely at these common disciplines, you will notice that each of them begins with the phrase, “By God’s grace.” The writers understand that all of our efforts to become more like Jesus depend upon our flowing in the stream of God’s grace. I believe this is especially true when we venture into serving others and working for justice.
I learned early on in my efforts to serve others about the danger of losing myself in the other person, commonly called enabling. It took the grace of God (and a great counselor) for me find my balance and become able to help someone without trying to fix them). I recently read a new term for this controlling “helping” behavior. Cynthia Bourgeault calls co-dependency “collapsing into one another.” She goes on to say that [love] is better served by standing one’s own ground within a flexible unity” (Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation, November 9, 2018). Maintaining this balance is very difficult in family relationships; it is just as hard when we are being servants. Often we give too much and the other person disappears. Or we are judgmental in our serving and the other person is diminished. Opening ourselves to God’s grace is the only way we can minister to others in the Jesus Way.
We also need the grace of God when we attempt to affect change in social systems and social structures. This calling is so difficult because it seems we have to change other’s hearts to change their systems. Or we have to display the power of many to challenge the power of the structure. We must bring love and forgiveness and understanding to the process. We must stop looking at “others” and keep looking at people. Life in the United States now is a huge laboratory for how to bring justice without stooping to the tactics of the unjust. We need perseverance and courage and the support of a community if we are going to bring down the fortresses of injustice and the castles of self-interest.
After the United States mid-term election, I heard one newly elected official say, “Now we have the power!” And I thought, ” And now we need the grace!”