Jen Pollock Michel on the Three-Letter Word That Undergirds Gospel Living

“You and Ryan seemed tired Friday,” my friend Janey said when she saw me at church. “Everything okay?” We had been to their house for a Christmas party two days earlier.
“Oh, we weren’t tired,” I said, laughing. “We were fighting.” The sky had been falling in thick flakes that Friday, the city roads a congested crawl under a whitened sky. A few more stolen moments in the car alone had afforded us just enough time for an argument.
“When are you taking your vacation days?” I had asked Ryan a few days earlier. It wasn’t exactly his answer that I had been brooding about for days and finally took up on the way to Janey’s. He did, in fact, plan to catch up while the office was quiet over the Christmas holidays. Instead, it was more that he hadn’t asked me the same question, carelessly presuming that I had no pressing deadlines.
In the middle years of our marriage, we have often encountered this recurrent place of tension—how to share domestic responsibility and how to support each others’ professional ambitions. It’s a lot of muddled, messy work, trying to figure out whose needs are being met and whose are not, especially when you try doing it on the way to a dinner party.
Marriage is often held up as a model of Christian sacrifice—and of course, there’s truth in that. In Christian marriage, we choose to love, serve, and submit to one another, even on the days that wring us out bone-tired. But Christian marriage isn’t built on mute self-sacrifice alone. Our wedding vows don’t simply bind us to politeness; they also bind us to courage. In the midst of this tension, we find deep virtue in one little word: and.
The early church offers us a model for how to love each other well in the midst of our differences—how to find those and spaces when we can imagine only either and or. When the contradictions of Jew and Gentile were joined together in the holy matrimony of Christ’s body, God was reconciling tremendous difference for the sake of unity in his new kingdom of priests. How were these people to eat dinner together, much less share a common faith? There were very practical questions to resolve when the Gentiles were grafted into the people of God: Did they need to be circumcised and keep kosher?
When Peter stood in the assembly of God’s people, he was clear to commend grace, not law-keeping, as the basis for salvation: “We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus.”
But grace didn’t settle the matter entirely. The church kept insisting on and: Exercise your freedom and love your brother. Obey your own conscience and “pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” There was liberty in Christ to eat freely and gratefully, and there was also the constraining obligation to love. “If your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love” (Rom. 14:15). This little three-letter word and had the power to bind together a church that might easily have been polarized by their food preferences and their festal calendars.
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Source: Christianity Today
Source: Black Christian News

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