The Hostile Environment of the Human Heart
A Word from Canon Hicks in the December 10, 2017 Adventurer
In counseling recently, Abby and I heard a phrase from our therapist that perfectly described the nature of parenting: “laboring for the gospel in a hostile environment.” The context involved us wrestling through extending grace to our kids, particularly when they don’t deserve it (as if there’s another kind of grace!). As strange as it sounded, it was a helpful word to us struggling parents. It allowed us to think of our home as a place that is not only broken, but downright hostile to God and his good news.
I wrote this phrase on the board in my office, and I’ve been pondering just how true it is, frankly, for all of life. For the Christian, every day is an attempt to receive and then give grace in a world that is completely hostile to God and his ways. We shouldn’t expect that gospel work will be easy work. We should expect that it will be met with resistance.
As a minister, I have observed this resistance not only from outside the church, but inside as well. And if I’m honest, I have found this resistance in my own heart. In my flesh, I remain not only ambivalent toward God, but hostile toward him.
Extending grace – and chiefly the gracious word about Jesus – will be met with hostility. This means that although we’d like to say that in every instance our overtures of grace to one another will yield positive reception – repentance, loving response, and the like – in reality gospel work is a slog. It is patient, humble, and persistent. It is simultaneously gentle yet bold, weak yet confident. It takes blows without giving them back, which is counterintuitive to the nature of hostility. Hostility demands an eye for an eye. Being a church that has a heart for the gospel means that we’re committed to the kind of work that meets hostility with grace, that labors to preach Christ crucified when there are so many things that we would rather “preach.”