Thursday, October 18, 2007

"It's Me, O Lord!"

There have been some high profile moral lapses of late, some political, some ministerial. I’m sure you’ve noticed. While I never want to be guilty of “piling on,” I, like you, find it disappointing when people we’ve trusted let us down. It is all the more painful when those persons occupy lofty perches from which they often pontificate about the indiscretions of others. It’s shocking and disillusioning when the politician who built a career railing against moral lapses in the larger society is discovered to harbor a few moral lapses of his own. It’s disturbing when the minister who masqueraded as the “morality police” for the rest of us is caught engaging in behavior that is not only immoral, but also illegal. What is one to think?

Well, I don’t know what you would think, but I know what the prophet Isaiah thought: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his/her own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6). Isaiah is pointing out two important truths those of us who call ourselves Christians should never forget: (1) none of us is blameless and without sin; our differences are always a matter of degree, not of kind; and (2) the same Christ who died for you died for your brother and your sister; that is, redemption is a corporate act, not just an personal one. I’m reminded of an old Negro spiritual that makes the same point: “It’s not my brother; it’s not my sister; it’s me, O Lord, standin’ in the need of prayer.” That’s why Christians never dance on the grave of a fallen enemy, because finally we recognize the enemy as our brother and sister...persons to whom we're related in deep and abiding ways...persons for whom Christ died.

There’s an old Hasidic legend that goes something like this:

One day, a disciple came to the Rabbi and asked: “Rabbi, did God enjoy all that he did throughout our history?”

“No, not everything, my son,” the Rabbi responded.

“What do you mean, he didn’t enjoy it all?” the student replied.

And the Rabbi, full of wisdom and humility, looked at his student and said:

“When our people were coming through the Red Sea, God had to rescue them, so he appointed a group of angels to take care of it. And the angels looked down and saw the Egyptians chasing the Israelites, and the angels parted the waters and the Israelites went through and when the Egyptians tried to follow, they released the waters and chariots and men and horses all tumbling and drowning, and the angels started jumping up and down and shouting and saying: ‘We got ‘em! We got ‘em! We got ‘em!’ And they danced around and danced around. And the Almighty came along and said: ‘What are you singing and dancing about?’ And they said: ‘Look! We got ‘em! We got ‘em! We got ‘em!’ And the Almighty said: ‘You are dismissed from my service.’ ‘Dismissed?’ they said, Why?’ And the Almighty said: ‘How can you dance and sing when some of my children are drowning?’”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was reading the obituaries in my hometown newspaper online when I came across someone I recognized - Dave R. You see, Dave R. was one of the bullies that constantly harassed the weaker kids in my wood shop class. I was one of his favorite targets. Every time he passed one of us in the wood shop proper and the old teacher was busy elsewhere, we got a shot in the upper arm from his hard-knuckled fist. As he belonged to the high school gang, we knew that any action we would take against him would elicit harsh retribution. He thoroughly enjoyed hearing us wince in pain and I figured, if that makes him happy, I could endure it. Whenever I "shoulder block" a door frame now, it reminds me of wood shop.

But there was his name and the names of his surviving brothers and sister and, for a minute, I'm thinking, "Great! He finally went to his well-deserved reward." But I caught myself and thought, "Oh oh. What if Dave R. repented of all the things he did to other people, became a Christian, became a good husband and father, had a successful career, and here I am condemning him in my mind?" It seems now "It's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer." I now hope he did change, as I do not want any of the Father's children lost.

I've been called to be the new Singles class leader at our new church. We have selected "The Quest" for our next 12 weeks or so of daily study. It looks like a good one for personal growth.

You make points very well, Pastor Stacy. Keep up the great work.

Yours in Christ,