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Today: 31 May 2020


But or And

First published 10/02/2019

 I was challenged recently. It was a sermon that did it. (It’s good for a preacher to listen to another preacher sometimes.)

A friend was celebrating retirement, and the preacher at the special service said that one of this friend’s favourite words was ‘and’. Knowing her quite well, I could understand that. She often responds in a discussion by saying “And don’t you think…” or “And I wonder whether…”  The preacher’s point was that many people tend to respond in conversation by saying “Ah, but...” whereas she was more likely to say “And…” She was an ‘and’ person.

It dawned on me as I listened that I am much more a ‘but’ person. I want to offer a different point, to present a challenge. A ‘but’ person is confrontational. An ‘and’ person wants to add constructively to the point already made. 

But ‘buts’ are of course essential on occasions. But the suggestion is that ‘and’ might often be a good word to replace it.  (Forgive all these ‘buts’.)

Not much of a message there, you might think, though I feel challenged to be more of an ‘and’ person.

However (which is a different kind of ‘but’), there is a much bigger message here. There is a real danger that we think of God as a ‘BUT God’ - one who sees all our faults, counts them all up and condemns us.  God can quite justifiably say to us - “ But you failed. But you made a mess of that. But you should have done more. But you caused trouble, broke your promise, didn’t listen or obey…”  And it’s true, we do very often fail, and the effects of our sins hang over us, as God the Judge looks on.

However (again), that is not full story.  The God who says ‘but’ to us, also says ‘and’.  And we need to listen for the ‘and’.  “Yes it’s true, you are not perfect; I know your thoughts, I know your secret self that you hide from the world, I know your history, your shame, your guilty memories; nothing is hidden from me.  AND I still love you!”

Actually, the ‘but’ there is a very healthy ‘but’ that is almost equivalent to ‘and’ - God loves the world (including you and me) so much and he wants us to have eternal life!

The very next verse also has a ‘but’ in it - “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  This Jesus deals with sin and  loves sinners.

The challenge is to link thoughts of God not so much with ‘but’, but with ‘and’ - as the loving ‘AND God’ who transforms all our ‘buts’.

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Loving God, help me to face the ‘buts’ that tell me I am unworthy, and also to receive your gracious ‘and yet’ that says that nevertheless you love me.

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