xkcd has been one of my favorite webcomics for a long time, and today’s entry is absolutely fantastic.
Sure, taking a few seconds to be respectful toward someone about something they care about doesn’t sound hard. But if you talk to hundreds of people every day and they all start expecting that same consideration, it could potentially add up to MINUTES wasted. And for WHAT?
What would happen if you took time to care about the people around you? What would result from actually showing kindness and concern for your bank teller, your waitress, your cashier, your plumber, or a telemarketer? Might you start to make the world around you a little better? Might it eventually make you into a better person? We get so worried about so-called slippery slopes in our church cultures, but this is one I can get behind: a slippery slope of grace.
Peter describes this slippery slope in I Peter 1:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Jesus has shown us grace in His love, and we come to know that grace through knowledge of His word. We then let that word help us grow to the same love He showed us, and part of that love is grace. Every time we practice grace toward others, we grow more like our Savior. This might mean we use kind words where we might want to be harsh. We listen where we might want to dismiss. We show kindness when we feel wronged. We forgive where we might want to begrudge. We take time to understand before we pass judgment.
When Paul was verbally or physically assaulted during his ministry, he never responded in kind. When Jesus confronts Peter about denying Him, he shows mercy and forgiveness instead of resentment. Jesus challenges us to resist conformity with the harshness of this world at the end of Matthew 5:
You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even n the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
These statements are not suggestions or truisms. This is how we grow closer to being like our Savior. This is what it means to be like Christ.
If we do this though, we will indeed be on a slippery slope. Because if I show kindness to those around me, even those I do not like, I might begin to care for them. If I care for them, I might be concerned for their well-being. If I’m concerned about that, I may begin to love them. And if I love them, I will begin to care about their souls. Then I will start focusing more on God’s work of seeking and saving the lost. If I do that, I might lift my head above worrying about all of the things that seem so important in this world and focus on something higher.
The slope is indeed slippery, but unlike others, it’s on an incline. It’s a risky journey worth taking.