Monday, July 11, 2011

On God's Account

The human condition is what it is: fallen. All of us make stupid comments in ignorance, even those of us with special needs kids, because we cannot possibly know what it true about every human difference. Beyond that, we cannot keep up with the ever-shifting current PC. And beyond that, we cannot instantly grasp what another most needs to hear. 

I am not excusing the ways we hurt each other. I won’t stop wishing we could all do better.  And I won’t stop praying that God will help me do better.
*****
In Christian culture, our conception of parenting is wrapped around the idea that good parenting results in good kids.  Children who behave righteously must be the product of righteous parenting by righteous parents. Ergo, the children of a man who aspires to be an elder must be believers and not open to charges of debauchery or insubordination; the father of such children is above reproach. (Titus 1:6)
Ouch. 
Early in Jesus ministry on earth, his newly-called disciples faced similar judgments. The majority culture equated external evidence of Old Testament law-keeping with righteousness. Matthew 4:23 tells us that Jesus walked into those bastions of righteousness, the synagogues, “teaching…and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every affliction and disease among the people.” (Even the unclean and even on Sabbath.)
Jesus' notariety spread throughout the region and large crowds began following him. He responded by calling his followers close to him, sitting them down, and proactively explaining the topsy-turvy, counter-cultural gospel of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus said: Those who follow me will hunger and thirst for righteousness. They will be blessed with mercy, insight, and the ability to make peace. Yet they will feel beaten down. They will mourn. They will have to meet insults with meekness because they will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. They will be reviled and slandered on My account. (Matthew 5:3-11)
*****

It would be easy to protest: Stop right there. Hold on. We’re not talking about being misunderstood, disbelieved, discredited for God’s sake. No one has given us an eternity-effecting ultimatum like, "Disavow Jesus or we'll crucify you upside down!" so there is no need to hyper-spiritualize this. We’re simply talking about the injustice of being persecuted in the public arena (most painfully, at church) for parenting perplexing children.
But who made those children? Who permitted their brains to develop atypically? Who placed them in families? Who gives parents mercy sufficient to each day’s troubles? Is it not a righteous thing (creditable only to God) when we parents are found clinging to Him, standing firm day after day when everything human in us wants to run away?
Jesus said that following God’s call on our life will be counter-cultural. Feeling misunderstood and reviled is normal in this place. If we find ourselves persecuted while following God’s leading, we can be sure the sign-post on this path reads, “Blessed.”
God knew that people would misunderstand those who took up his counter-cultural standard (a cross), including the call to adopt and to raise children with disabilities like FASD, early trauma, and mental illness. 
That's why Jesus told his disciples: Never mind. Forget what people say and do in ignorance of my work in this world. Listen to what I tell you: You are blessed. The Kingdom of Heaven is yours. You will receive comfort and mercy and be satisfied. You are a child of God. You will  inherit the earth.  Rejoice and be glad for your reward will be great in heaven. (Matthew 5:3-11a)

Then Jesus admonished his disciples to consider people like the prophets (v. 11b), who took their cues from God, not from culture.  They were persecuted, too. Just like Jesus.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [the faithful in Hebrews 11], let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." Hebrews 12:1-3.

That's the sermon I have been preaching to my heart. Especially when I feel shamed and judged and weary.

*****

As for the question: "What can I say that will help and not hurt?"

If we have time for conversation, “How can I pray for you?” or, “Tell me about life in your family,” are welcome.

But even if time is short, you can deflect your attention (and ours) away from the present moment and upward to the Truth. Something like, “God is amazing, isn’t he?” is always appropriate. If it is a hard moment, God is amazing for sustaining us through it. And if it is a good moment, God is amazing for giving it to us because we are sinners who deserve much worse.

It is not about us. It is all on God’s account.

1 comment:

Craig and Phyllis said...

Oh, that was just balm for my soul! Thank you!! We have just come through a very stressful time. Now we will be walking the path that must follow. It is scary and overwhelming. Like you said, some times I would rather just run in the opposite direction instead of walking on the path that Christ has set us on. Thanks again.