Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Our Father, Who art WHAT?
So saw a good friend today…a retired pastor friend. As always, it was good to see him. And, as always, he had a joke for me. One he thought might be apropos. I’m not sure why. Maybe you can figure it out. It goes like this:
A preacher once wrote his first book, and was very excited about it. As he received his congratulations and his early sales, his head began to expand. And then, one day, as he led his congregation in prayer, he began with the Lord’s Prayer. Kind of. He stood before the congregation and spoke with his booming voice, “Our Father, Who also wrote a book…..”
Moving on. A friend told me she was visiting with someone a bit about the Finding God in the Seasons of Divorce Book, She told me that the person asked how I justify divorce. As I said to my friend, the first answer I thought of was, “Probably the same way that person justifies self-righteousness and judgmental ism.” However, the real answer is, “What makes you think I justify divorce in the book?” The book isn’t about debating the rightness and wrongness of divorce in this situation or that situation. Most of us who have been through a divorce aren't interested in justifying it anyway…..we don’t see it as some wonderful opportunity that came into our lives. But to get bogged down in the midst of that question is to miss the point of the book, and the point of the blog.
Here IS the point:
Divorce is, sadly enough, a reality in our society today, and in many of our churches today. There are great marriage helps and resources out there (I personally like a lot of the material Les and Leslie Parrott have out there, and the Marriage Encounter program). And I believe that those kinds of helps save many a marriage, and wish they could save them all. But real life is, even with those programs out there, there are still divorces. When we as Christians encounter those individuals (Christian or not) in the midst of that process or afterwards, we have a choice. We either come alongside to try to minister God’s love, grace, mercy, forgiveness and strength. Or we can turn them out as failures, immoral and threatening to our churches and our marriages, judging them as not worthy of our time or energy. In my opinion, it is a sad thing that so many Christians choose the latter option.
Because, as I study the Gospels, I don’t find Jesus behaving that way. Oh, sure, he could still say that adultery was wrong. He could still speak of the sanctity of marriage. And he did the same in other areas of right and wrong….most notably in the way he responded to those members of the Pharisees who were so harsh in their treatment of people whose lives were filled with bad habits, poor choices and sin. But to those trapped in those things, Jesus came with mercy, forgiveness, a challenge to change, and assurance of his love. Those “sinners” LOVED to be around Jesus. The judgmental Pharisees DIDN'T like to be around him.
So……. if what I say there is true, shouldn't people out there in sin LOVE to be around people trying to be like Jesus who call themselves Christians? Shouldn't people whose lives are falling apart, maybe because of bad habits, maybe because of poor choices….and, I would suggest, in the midst of divorce whether justifiable or not……. shouldn't those kind of people experience God’s LOVE through Christians claiming to follow Christ? I would think so.
You and I both know that is not the experience many Christians create in the lives of struggling people around us. In fact, my friend went on to tell me that a relative of hers said that she believes her church runs off divorced people, almost intentionally, because it treats them like second class citizens. Hmmm... That doesn't sound like Jesus in the Gospels. It sounds more like somebody else. But you decide. I know, though, which way I’m going, and that is to offer a book that will help represent Christ walking with those folks struggling with the devastation of divorce.
TL:dr I know, it’s too long. But, please read it anyway, okay?