Editor’s Corner: Grace along the road

Amy Forbus Editor, Arkansas United Methodist

Amy Forbus
Editor, Arkansas United Methodist

I’ve spent a fair amount of my adult life behind the wheel of a car. Like many Arkansans, I live too far away from my office to walk to work, and my work provides me with the means to own a vehicle, so driving remains a regular part of my life.

When I lived in the DFW area, I spent a lot of time sitting behind the wheel, not going much of anywhere. I’m thankful that traffic jams don’t occur too frequently on my regular routes these days.

One weekday morning as I followed one of those nice, clear regular routes, a car passed me bearing this bumper sticker:

“To hell with our enemies, GOD BLESS AMERICA”

I found the message of condemnation so jarring that I didn’t even bother to mentally correct the punctuation until days later. That comma would work better as a semicolon, or possibly a dash. (I can’t help it. Editing is second nature for me.)

Instead, I thought immediately of Jesus’ instruction in Matthew 5, which must also have jarred his audience: “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven” (Common English Bible).

Jesus lays it out there: Will you follow the Law as he and countless others learned it? Will you wish your enemies toward hell, or follow the law of love? That unexpected point of contrast fits right in with the new commandment he would share in another of the Gospels: “I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other” (John 13:34).

Human nature includes the urge to judge. We do it constantly, though not always on a large-scale or intentionally harmful level. Nevertheless, making choices, and therefore judgments, comes as a package deal with life.

But exalting ourselves while condemning the “other”—whether a non-American, non-Christian, non-recycler or non-chocolate lover—doesn’t help anything. Instead, we would do well to remember we are people of grace, and then act like it.

I know I don’t always recognize my own tendency to condemn. But when I do catch myself thinking ill of those who don’t live like me, or behave like me, or understand the world like me, that bumper sticker sometimes comes to mind. The very vision of it helps me change my behavior.

As people of faith, we have an extra measure of grace. Why not share it?

To reach me, send an email message to aforbus@arumc.org.