The Lord is my light and my salvation - whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life - of whom shall I be afraid? When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident...I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. (Psalm 27)
Lions make you brave. Giants give you faith. Death is a charade. You don't have to be safe to feel unafraid. ("Lions" by Lights)
A few years back I was up in the offices at our store. We used to have a "Wall of Shame" up there of all of the shoplifters we had busted. We would enjoy a good laugh at their expense. Some of the mug shots looked pretty bad. Others looked incredibly clueless.
I remember a photo of one of the newer folks we had caught. She was this blond girl who went to the nearest High School. The look on her face caught me. She looked very empty. I didn't want to laugh at her because of that look. I dunno. There was just something about it.
A few days later after work, I swung by McDonald's to grab something to eat before I drove out to the cabin. There was that same girl! She was sitting all by herself with that same empty & lost expression on her face. I recall very clearly that I felt a tug on my heart, BIG TIME, to go over and ask her if everything was OK. I was in a hurry, so instead, I took my food and left for the cabin.
This past Sunday at Living Waters, Pastor Scott got off on a bit of a tangent. Most of us enjoy it when he does this. What "Free-Flow" is to Rappers, the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit is to good pastors. (Like "Ants-in-the-Pants" from on high.) Scott began to get a bit worked up about Believers not being involved enough in the day to day hurts of people and social injustice. He decried the situation in Florida about Trayvon Martin being killed among a variety of other current issues. "Why don't we run to the rescue when we are able," he asked? "Why do we look the other way?"
Earlier in that week, Scott had asked me to write something about this issue. Partly out of curiosity I suppose, but also because he wanted me to get something up that took away from the attention of a post I had written about him. This one here, in fact ---> http://www.trippingandstumbling.com/2012/03/putt-putt.html Scott has a very small ego and gets embarrassed by too much attention. So what ever you do, do NOT click on that link.
Anyway, here is my take on that horrible event in Florida.
Plenty of opinions have been given by numerous folks about the death of Trayvon Martin. Numerous politicians have tried to make political hay out of this issue. You have the Tighty-Righties on FOX making their complaints. Then you have opportunistic lefties like Jesse Jackson & Rev. Al Sharpton weighing in. Great! (Isn't this a beautiful country?!?!)
I wasn't sure what to think when the story first broke. And now both sides are slinging even more mud and hoping to gain the moral high ground by digging a ditch.
I'll say this much: If you see someone suspicious, inform the police, and they then tell you to back off & stand down...DO IT! What you do NOT do is follow that person in your car down the road, confront them out in full view of the public, provoke them into a fight and then shoot them...and then claim self-defense!!!!
I simply do not understand the concept of disobeying a direct order from the police. (Particularly if you claim to be some kind of neighborhood watch leader) In a nut shell, that's all I really have to say about this issue.
Actually, there have been some very thoughtful articles written about this horrible event. Here are a couple that I thought well written. They are certainly better than anything I can write. Peruse them as you see fit.
Oh wait, there was one other thing I wanted to say; WHAT WAS ANY & EVERYONE ELSE WHO SAW THIS HAPPENING DOING DURING ALL OF THIS?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
WHERE WERE THEY?
Most folks believe that Psalm 27 was written by David during one of the times that King Saul was trying to kill him. It's an amazing Psalm written from a very heartfelt position. You can hear David's pain in it. Yet, you can also hear his hope in the faithfulness of YHWH.
David had his faults. He would be the first to admit them. So his faith had little to do with himself. It had a great deal to do with who he knew his God was. David was not in a safe place, per say. He was in great physical danger. Yet, whatever legitimate fears he had, he placed them in the hands of the Living God.
There is freedom in that.
David certainly had his fears,
but he was unafraid.
America has a great deal of fear. In some respects we were founded on fear. Some of us fear our government. Others fear corporations. Some fear their neighbors. Many fear strangers. Apparently, many, many Americans fear all the new Muslims that have moved here. Some make up their own fears and call them conspiracies. We seem to love our fears.
People who call themselves "Christians" certainly seem to have plenty of strange fears, too.
Personally, I fear strawberries with hair on them.
"God is love...There is no fear in love.
But perfect love casts out fear." (1 John 4:16-18)
Many years ago I lived in the Czech Republic for a while, teaching English. (Awesome beer, by the way.) In Prague there was a notorious gang of pick-pockets. They were five fat brothers. They would surround a tourist with their girth, then one of their fat children would reach in and grab a wallet. (I'm not making that up.)
I knew who these guys were, and they almost made me wish for the good old days of Communism where the police could just drag you away and give you a handy beating for no apparent reason.
So I was at the Metro station with a student. I see this elderly lady standing on the platform by herself...her purse barely dangling from her wrist. I see that "Weeble" family spot her from a distance. One of them moved in towards this lady.
It amazed me that so many people saw what was about to happen, but no one did a thing. To be honest, I'm not actually very brave. I don't like confrontation. But for some reason I was so offended by ALL of what I saw that I got up and stood behind that old lady and stared fatty down. (My student just sat there staring at me. Thanks buddy!)
So when the train got there, the rest of the Weebles kind of moved in towards me. Apparently I had ruined their plans for supper or something. 5 on 1 is not the best odds regardless of who you are. I remember that I thought I was going to wet my pants...seriously! (I also remembered that keys in a pocket can make an excellent slashing weapon.) Thankfully, my menacing stare and the Czech cultural instinct to quickly knuckle under to all invaders seemed to have done the trick. Nothing happened other than curse words I could not translate.
The irony is that the old lady never knew that any of it had happened. (Maybe Jesus will give me a happy-face sticker when I see him face to face.)
Believers are in a bind when it comes to situations like these. On the one hand, we are told by Jesus to turn the other cheek when we are persecuted. Yet, at the same time there is not one book from any of the Prophets where we are NOT told to vigorously defend the weak at all times.
I can't speak for the great theologians. I can only speak for myself. So my thought is that if you want to attack me because of my faith, OK. I wont raise a fist. I might mock you and call into question your own blatantly obvious insecurities, but that would be about it.
But on the other hand...
There is a lady named Helen whom I love a great deal. I have written about her once, a long time ago. http://www.trippingandstumbling.com/2011/01/helen-has-reputationand-i-want-same.html Helen is 84 years old, a widow, and one of the great delights of my life. Apparently Helen prays for me every day. Every time she sees me she attempts to be a blessing. Generally speaking, she succeeds.
I knew her for years by the nick-name I gave her, Sunny. That was always her disposition. Every time she see me she has uplifting words & encouragement for me. In fact, it has gotten to the point that every time I see her in the gym (Yes, she is a busy bee.) I start to get a little teary-eyed.
I love Helen very much. If I ever saw a person attempt to hurt her in any way, shape or form, I would do my best to hurt them. I really don't care how big that person is. I would hurt them. I would not kill them, but when I were finished they may have wished that I had. And I do mean that!
Now, magnify that attitude with a member of my family being hurt.
I wrestle with this impulse. I am not convinced that it is the most Christ-like. But the nucleus of it might be...the concept of righteous indignation & such. I hope for everyone's sake that I am never put in this particular position.
The fact of the matter is that the average Believer is rarely, if ever, put into life or death decisions of that type. But there is hardly a day that goes by where we are not faced with injustices of some sort. Whether it is office trash-talking, bullying, or most commonly simple indifference to suffering, we see it all the time.
In fact, we are very good at being indifferent to others.
So Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. A bunch of "Religious" leaders walk by and see a wounded man on the side of the road. They do nothing. They were indifferent, and we don't really know why.
But this is so often us. We are very good at being indifferent.
Maybe it's fear. Maybe we are afraid of looking like a fool for getting involved. Maybe we are afraid that the others in a group will laugh at us if we stand up for another person. Maybe we are rightfully afraid of being physically hurt in some circumstance. (Most people have a cell phone though. 911 is not difficult to remember.)
Most of the time, though, I think we are indifferent simply because we don't care. Most of the time, the people we see on the side of the road in life, are simply hurting people. They are not dangerous. We see hurting people at work everyday. We see hurting neighbors, acquaintances, people on sidewalks, people in restaurants, bars, shopping malls. Sometimes we see them in McDonald's.
We are good at being indifferent. At least I am.
I never did find out what happened to that blond girl who we caught shoplifting at our store. This girl with an empty & lost look on her face. I have no idea what became of her. I cannot forget the pull I felt on my heart to simply sit down and ask her if everything was OK. It still nags at me after all this time.
I admit, a part of me felt rather weird thinking of sitting down with her. I mean, what if she thought I was some freak. I could get in trouble. So there was a bit of fear in me. But the fact remains that the cabin is an hour and a half away. I really wanted to get out there to enjoy a day off. I was in a hurry.
She was on the side of the road.
I can use my fear as an excuse.
Father, please forgive me.
I was indifferent.