Acts 20:28-32 [Paul saying goodbye to the Ephesian elders] So guard yourselves and God’s people. Feed and shepherd God’s flock—his church, purchased with his own blood—over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as elders. … Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following. Watch out! … And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.
At the end of his teary farewell to beloved friends, Paul returns to the topic of grace—my favorite subject, my deepest longing.
Grace builds up. I want to tell you my experience at the writer’s conference listening to two different keynote addresses.
The first, to open the conference, earnestly described how terrible America is today, and who he thinks is at fault for the mess we’re in, with political references that made me think of Romans 13:7 (“Give respect and honor to those who are in authority”) only by contrast. What have I gotten myself into? I wondered.
So, I felt anxious when I saw the topic of the closing-day keynote was “Our Voice in a Hostile Culture.” If it’s more of the same, I can’t listen to it, I thought. I don’t want to leave this conference feeling upset and disappointed with the event leaders who have been so kind to me.
As I listened, though, I found myself in tears. The speaker called us to Kingdom values. We are citizens of Heaven first, and we serve a King whose nature is love, and justice, and righteousness, and mercy. We are to represent him. Our voice is to be characterized by grace:
“In all things, become love—so that if anyone thinks of love, they think of you. In all things, all the time, become love. Patiently listen. Hear what people have to say. Treat them with respect. Look for what you have in common, the ways you can connect. Have an attitude of grace. Practice grace. Pray into it. Offer vision and hope. Be compassionate. Our lives are to be a lovely fragrance attracting people to the King whose grace we ourselves have experienced …”
In the flood of comments in the chat (we were on Zoom), one person wrote, “This talk has been worth the whole price of the conference.” I agree. Of all the thousands of words I listened to over three intense days, these are the words that most impacted and encouraged me. The words that will continue to challenge me.
Lord, teach me grace. Remind me constantly of your grace in my life. Please show me today how to build up those whose lives touch mine.