Sunday, May 4, 2014

Social Ill's

Abortion, Civil Rights, Aids. They are coming to the surface in every area; the news, education, our personal lives.  Yet when I read scripture, they don’t seem to be addressed generally, but in specific incidents where the person is more important than the issue.

That is the way God intended it, but unfortunately we as the Church and as individuals try to ride it on both sides. We fail when we deal with any social issue from the perspective of the culture around us, but if we address is as Christ wanted us to, then perhaps the culture around us is affected and altered, just as it was in Jesus day when he brought God into the center of the issue.

As I hear more and more about these current issues painted with the broad stroke, I am reminded of people and the stories of their lives where the issue became personal, and policy didn't seem to matter at the time of having to deal with it.

Once again a story—
I accepted Christ when I was 17 years old, living in a small town of about 1500 where there were no black people, there were two “beer joints”, and one stop light. Anything that happened that would have been considered a social issue was NEVER brought to the light of day. Oh yes, there was gossip, and innuendo, but the facts, and truth, seldom came out.

I lived in what some would have considered a Utopian society on the outside that affected my thinking and my life. Yes I was naive, to put it mildly.

When I graduated High School and planned to attend college at one of the big state universities that was four hours from home, I had absolutely no idea what I was headed for. They might as well have dropped me in the middle of New York City.

To say I was “exposed” to sin is an absolute understatement. Sex was prevalent, smoking and drinking, the casual use of drugs, poured in on me and I had absolutely no idea how to deal with any of it. Not wanting to appear as naive as I was, I tried to fit in where I could, to a certain point, but there was a point where the confusion rained down and I couldn't seem to rationalize the issues in my mind.

I met many girls who professed to be followers of Jesus, who had grown up attending church just like I had, but for some reason were going out on Fri and Sat nights with their boyfriends and sorority sisters and getting drunk, high, and not coming home. They would attend Bible study on Wed. evening in a dorm room, and go party on Sat. night. They didn't get up and go to church on Sunday.

I would say I eventually distanced myself from them, but the truth of it was, that just like my friends back home, who I found out years later where doing much the same thing, they simply excluded me, and left me behind.

I continued to attend Bible Study on our floor and the gal who led it was actually the older sister of one of the girls who lived next door to me, and had attended one of the big churches in Wichita. They were fun, light hearted girls, who were in a sorority, and had lots and lots of friends, and people to hang out and do things with. Our Bible Studies were light, nothing too meaty, but always social, and fun, and you came away feeling good…….yeah.

During this time I got a job; a part time one at the Student Health Center. I filed papers, and files for a few hours a week, but it supplemented my money and it required no skill except knowing the alphabet.

One day as I was filing, the leader of our Bible Study came to the window to check in for an appt. I saw her, but she didn’t see me. Things were much different back then, there were no computers at every desk, a select few had them and otherwise, things were done manually with paper forms and paper documentation. The forms the kids filled out were given to the Dr. to mark with diagnosis, and given to the computer entry person to put the information into the computer, where the same slip of paper was pasted into their file and I filed it. I really never was privy to personal, confidential information; or at least I wasn’t supposed to be.

After my friend checked in, I commented to one of the ladies that I worked with that I knew her and who she was. Wondering aloud what she was there for and hoping that she was O.K.

As I continued to file over the next few hours, a fresh pile of paper work was brought back to be entered in the computer, pasted in the files, so I could file them away. When my co-worker started to go through the papers, she asked me about my friend, “didn't you say she leads your Bible study?” she asked. When I replied that she did, she asked me if she was married. I said, “Oh no!, She is only 20 years old, she is in XYZ sorority.”  “Well”, the lady replied, “she is pregnant.” 

HIPPA hadn’t been passed yet.

This surprised me, but I wasn't shocked. My Jr. year of HS, a girl got pregnant out of wed-lock, and the students had gotten together a petition to demand that the school board allow her to remain in school. This was nothing new to me.

But the thing was my Bible Study leader never had that baby. School continued for the next 6 months, and she never gained weight, began to show, and never had a baby. Her younger sister never said anything to any of us about her sister going to have a baby. In fact she continued to lead our Bible Study, although not as regularly, but she was there.

I had three older sisters who had children, I knew the process of pregnancy, and I knew that if she was truly pregnant, and I had seen the slip of paper that got pasted in her file and the Dr. had signed it, she would have eventually started showing signs, which she never did.

It took me awhile to realize what had happened, and how it had probably been handled.

A former roommate of mine, also a professing Christian, had an abortion just a few years later, and her sister explained to me how she had driven up to Manhattan and picked her up, taken her over to KU, had the abortion, and then stayed with her for the weekend. It didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that this is what had probably been done with my Bible Study leader too.
I was confused. Abortion was something that I had heard about, but was not openly spoken of.
But here was a beautiful sweet young girl, who was teaching others how to read and study the Bible, but obviously wasn't internalizing any of what she was reading and teaching.

At first I wanted to blame the boy, but as I got older, and had my own issues with guys, I realized that she was equally responsible and therefore to be held as accountable as any guy.

As I continued through college and later in life, I have encountered several girls who have shared that in their younger years had abortions. Girls who went to church all their lives, and who even led, or taught Bible studies and Sunday School classes. These girls, I figure needed love, and were looking for it in the arms of a guy whom they had misread, and found themselves in a predicament that they simply couldn't face. The rejection of a guy who they found out or knew wouldn't want to share this responsibility with them, the facing parents who they knew would be disappointed and devastated by the news, and the altering of their futures and lives for the rest of their days; this was something that the abortion industry assured them could be fixed, so they did it.

I never knew what happened with too many of these girls. I don’t know how it impacted them and their lives and futures, but I know how the knowledge of them making this particular choice after saying they were Christians, and trying to be someone that supposedly didn't believe in and would never do such a thing, impacted me. My own response is all I can be responsible for.

I didn't turn from God, but I began to see a much broader picture of things than I had before. I began to see the grey areas that so many people live in, and I began to step into those areas myself.

Because of the personal stories, and affects of the social issues that I've seen and encountered, I have a hard time when I hear the politicians take something so personal and try to make it a blanket issue that will be dealt with on a grand scale.

The individuality of the individual is lost, and person by person needs are never met.

Yes, the church has failed, we as individual Christians have failed to show the love of God to people in a way that they won’t go searching for it in places and people that would and will continue to only hurt and scar them for the rest of their lives. 

When politics and social issues collide with the church, something is lost. Read the Gospels. Over and over the religious leaders who were trying to appease Rome that they might keep their “institution” intact, clashed with Jesus. Not over the issue, but over the treatment of the individuals involved. For Jesus saw the stray, the wounded, the sick, and downtrodden as one person at a time and ministered and healed them as such. Oh yes, He did miracles on a grand scale, feeding 5000 is no small thing, but overall when you read the Gospels, they are a record of the one on one encounters of people with the Living God. 

When the church becomes so much of an institution that it fails to teach and stress one on one mentoring, discipleship and relationship, it isn't the reflection of Jesus anymore, but the very institution that Jesus constantly warned the church leaders about.

Eventually that very institution conspired with Rome and had Jesus killed because they saw Him as such a threat to their way of doing things that they couldn't let it continue. Somewhere along the way, the relationship that God wanted with his people took a back seat to the institution of God.

Small victories are won in the trenches of relationships. The kingdom of heaven started with 12 men and a hand full of followers who without mass communication and technology went out and shared the power and impact and results that knowing the Risen Christ had on their lives. They lived it before people, and it changed the world.

There is no reason for our impotence, except without relationship WITH Christ, we can’t really have relationship with anyone else FOR Christ.

Perhaps this is what our Bible study leader didn't know either. Sharing what Jesus can do and reading the Bible is good, but having a relationship with Jesus is what enables and empowers us to resist the desires that draw us into sin. Demonstrating relationship with Christ is what shows the world that we are different, we approach things differently.

Prayer, relationships, prayer, Bible reading, prayer, fasting, prayer………relationship with God.