Making God’s Grace Visible by Engaging With People Who Are Not Like Us

via Pixabay/Clker-Free-Vector-Images

I recently was introduced to the term “PLU,” which stands for “people like us.” We all need a sense of community where we are with our PLUs, but not to the extent of isolation or exclusion.

If we do not become proximate with “people not like us,” then we miss out on understanding the life and perspective of others. We are unable to connect with them, risk becoming judgmental and prejudice, and risk supporting policies which harm others. We risk keeping grace invisible when we only engage with people like us. Entering the world of “others” is a way of making grace visible.

If you understand the gospel, then you understand God’s grace. In a sermon, Martin Luther King Jr. describes the grace of God like this:

Have you ever done anything, and you felt that you had become a shame to yourself? You feel a sense of shame before your family and before society, and you felt that your integrity never would come back? That your life now was an endless process of meaninglessness and that everything had turned against you, and as you walked the streets you were ashamed to look at anybody, and you felt that everybody was looking at you with scorn? And you went to bed at night, and you tried to pray that you wouldn’t think about it or you wouldn’t dream about it, but even in the midnight hours you would wake up and discover that it was still plaguing you? And then, at that moment, you decided to try another method; you decided to turn this thing over to God and lay yourself bare before the Almighty God, and something happened to you, and you could walk out before life and before your family and before yourself and your friends with new meaning. Looked like life had taken on something new, and you wondered what happened. That was the grace of God. Something that you didn’t deserve, something that you didn’t merit, but something that you so desperately needed in order to live through the experiences of life.

I have seen grace made visible in prisons.

Recently, I saw it in the incarcerated circled around the handball court inside a prison for an evangelistic event. There was very little initial interaction between the volunteers and the incarcerated. The incarcerated kept a bit of distance checking out the volunteers, almost leery of them. It was up to the volunteers to step out of being with their PLUs and entering into the crowd.

“Hey, we are glad you are here!”

“What is your name, no…your first name!”

“Where are you from?”

The invisible but very apparent walls began to come down. Trust was built by showing acceptance and interest. Even with this progress, a sense of uncertainty could be felt to address the underlying “us versus them” in the air and to make it a “together we are here” celebration.

It is a scene that repeats itself. The incarcerated rarely experience a tangible sense of grace. Time behind bars makes them leery of connecting with people and less likely to reach out. Often, their pathway to incarceration was a result of dysfunctional families, choices, and behavior which are difficult to hear. Fatherlessness, trauma, poverty, and lack of opportunities are common themes. Stories of abuse and victimization are difficult to hear and imagine.

The experience of grace, mercy, and the concept of forgiveness are rare for the incarcerated. Instead, society has given themselves permission to judge and scorn this population.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Christianity Today, Karen Swanson and Douglas Cupery