If you’ve followed my blog for awhile, you may have noticed that I teach an adult Sunday School class at my local church. I don’t teach it all the time, usually there are a few of us that rotate it among ourselves. However, I was teaching this last Sunday on a particular book, and we got into an intense discussion about doing things for those less fortunate than us and about giving some of what we had up for some people who have nothing.
Our church does reasonably well at this. I’m not saying that we’re saints or anything, but I feel like a lot of people in our church, particularly in our adult class, really get the importance of serving and giving to others. Anyway, as the discussion progressed, one of the members of what we call the “Hands and Feet Group” (a committee we have that is in charge of marshaling the church’s resources to help others) mentioned a good deed that the church had done the previous week. We were having our annual rummage sale and some people from the neighborhood came looking. They said that they had just moved to the area, and they didn’t have much, so they were looking to see if there was any cheap furniture. Well, the rummage sale really didn’t have any furniture, but the hands and feet group began contacting different church members to see if anyone had anything to spare. By the time the day was done, the family was set up with donated beds, chairs, and other furniture. The family was very grateful.
That sounds like a nice, heartwarming story about what we’re supposed to do as Christians, right? Well, not everyone thought so. Another member of the class got inquisitive about the nature of this family. The only thing that anybody in class that day really knew was that there were eight adults and a couple of kids. Now, I didn’t really even bat an eye at that. Our church is located near Weber State University, and it’s not uncommon for a bunch of college age adults, maybe even some with kids, to share living space while they attend college. Also, there is a large Hispanic population here, and part of their culture is keeping the extended family together. It could have easily been some siblings and their spouses, plus the kids and grandparents. No big deal.
Ah, but the inquisitive person thought it was. This person was really uncomfortable with the fact that we had done this and wanted to know why there would be eight adults living together and what they were possibly up to. The implication was clear, this person seemed to suspect that there was something nefarious going on and our church shouldn’t have done what we did or at least checked into it more first.
It was so antithetical to what we were talking about that silence loomed large in the room for several seconds. After that uncomfortable period, I just mentioned that I thought it was great and then sought to move the discussion along. However, it’s been on my mind all week, and I wonder if I missed a teaching moment there.
You see, God doesn’t ask us to do a background check before we exhibit love, mercy, and compassion. When Jesus healed people he didn’t ask them a bunch of questions about their lives or sins they committed before he did it. “Oh, you’re an adulteress? I’m afraid I can’t help you.” “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t cure you because you’re a prostitute and you brought this condition on yourself.””Well, tell me, what are you going to do with your life if I heal you? Nothing nasty I hope!”
Christ’s mercy was unconditional. I firmly believe that our calling as Christians is to model that love and mercy. Author Morgan Guyton puts it this way on page 24 in his new book: “How Jesus Saves The World From Us: 12 Antidotes to Toxic Christianity:”
Many times the ‘sins’ that we see in other people are the excuses we give ourselves not to show them mercy.
Now I don’t know what “sins” the person in our Sunday School class was projecting on to the people we helped, but does it matter? The quote from Guyton has hung with me all week on that. It’s absolutely true, too.
The conservative “pro-life” movement is so focused on abortion being an abomination that there is little to no mercy shown to a woman who might be in the toughest spot oh her life. Perhaps a woman has been raped and become pregnant with her attacker’s child. Perhaps she becomes pregnant after a night of casual sex with a stranger and has no idea where the father is, then having to focus all of her limited resources to care for a child. Perhaps her doctors have advised her that there is a significant risk to her health if she carries the child to term, or that the child will certainly be born with a debilitating condition.
Now I’m not suggesting that abortion is the right answer or even the best answer for any of those scenarios. If the mother or child are not at risk from medical issues adoption can be a great alternative. My family is an adoption success story. It’s never a guarantee though. My point is that many people will readily and willingly trample these women under foot in pursuit of their agenda. Don’t believe me? Well the State of Oklahoma just passed a law that bans abortion and makes no concession for rape or incest. That’s right, if you get raped in Oklahoma and become pregnant, you have no choice. That’s not right, and it’s not the Christian thing to do. Toss out whatever “sin” you think they’ve committed and just look at them as a person, an image-bearer of God just like you. Our primary concern should be showing the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ to any of these women, reaffirming their personal worth in their life. We show compassion, we help them, and we pray for them, unconditionally. Then maybe when faced with the love and support of the people around her, she makes a life affirming choice. If women choose not to have abortions, I’m sure that is usually the scenario that produces that choice, not the incessant brow-beating and shaming of many in our society.
Of course, that’s just one high profile example, and again, I’m not trying to justify abortion in all or any circumstances. I’m just saying that we need to be openly compassionate and life-affirming to these women as well.
Even if we’re not in tune to these hot button issues, I’m sure we all exhibit this behavior in out own lives. I know I sure do. It’s a difficult to task to not judge others and to show them mercy, particularly when someone has wronged you personally. That’s why I have Micah 6:8 on this entry. Our job is clearly not to judge others. The Lord requires us to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with Him. Acting justly means standing up for the outcast and marginalized. Loving mercy means to offer love and compassion instead of judgment and derision. Walking humbly with God means seeking to grow in Him and to become more like Him.
May he truly bless us and guide us as we seek to do these things.