7.25.2007

"It's Not Fair!!"

I cannot count how many times my boys have protested something by saying that my request or command was unfair. Having to go to bed at a reasonable hour, having to leave a game boy at home or in the car rather than keeping it "in my pocket? I promise I won't take it out, or go in the sand, or get it wet!" And, of course, a million other daily items provoke the response "But Mom! It's not fair!"

And I'm glad! I hope they never lose the idea that those in authority should do what is fair, and that it benefits them to appeal to an ideal of fairness, and that there is such an ideal to appeal to!

I consider it just as much my job to cultivate those three concepts as it is to form and shape their initial understanding of fairness, and their initial understanding of authority. I cannot think of any task that impacts their relationships with God and with others more than this central task of mine in raising them. I will send them into adulthood either with a set of views that allows them to strive toward harmony with God and others out of a healthy view of reality, or will send them into adulthood with a distortion that either bows unquestioningly to authority or else flaunts authority out of a deeply ingrained lack of respect . . . and will lead them to assume whatever authority life brings to them with either a spirit that uses those "under them" or with a spirit that submits their authority to God's authority and that stewards for Him all authority that He gives them.

Our churches are full of leaders that misuse authority and our cities are full of people who won't go near a church -- or at least won't go near a church like the one they grew up in -- because they have an understanding of justice that spotlights the church as a place of control and injustice rather than as a place of grace and justice.

Justice is always based on truth . . . as best as we can know it as we all put our perceptions together. We can know truth well enough to create environments in our communities of faith that do reflect justice and grace. The Holy Spirit loves to answer our prayers for just that!

Lies and distortions of the truth to further the agenda of anyone (or to further the ideology that one or all of us believe to be true) never produce justice. They don't produce love or grace, either. One of the basic tenets in a pursuit of a just community must be a commitment to listen to each other when one of us challenges the status quo, or we do move away from truth into a world that doesn't see the perspective of the people in the margins.

So, who today am I writing off? Who has blown it so badly in how they lived their life that I don't have to listen to their perspective? Who is so uncomfortable for me to be around that I may have to tolerate them in worship but I certainly don't have to be friends with them?

Justice, grace, mercy, and the agape love that should mark my home as a Christian home and my life as a Christian life are measured in the little things just as much as in the big things. The bottom line really is "how do I treat the people in my home, and how do I allow them to treat each other?" And, beyond that, who are the people I let into my home and my life? Do I keep it closed to anyone that makes me uncomfortable because they don't fit my ideals or just because I don't really like them?

Justice, grace, mercy, and the agape love that should mark our church as a Christian church and each little social group as truly a group of Jesus' followers are also measured in the little things just as much as in the big things. The bottom line really is "how do we treat each other, and how do we respond to how everyone else treats each other?" And, beyond that, who are the people we let really move into things and be in the middle of what's going on in our church? Do we involve ourselves socially with people that don't share our preferred ways of living and relating? Do we go beyond politeness to those who make us feel uncomfortable or who lack an understanding of our concept of "basic social skills"? Do we form real relationships -- not just "ministry relationships" but real social friendships -- with people other than the ones that already saturate our lives?

Do we give lip-service to Jesus' command that we keep on forgiving forever -- "not seven times, but seventy times seven" -- but only apply it to people we choose to be in relationships with, and give fake forgiveness to others, but show reality by writing them off? "After all, I can't be friends with everyone, can I?"

If we, as Evangelical Christians, have a real commitment to justice, truth, agape love, grace, mercy -- that is, if we have a real commitment to Jesus' commitments -- we will not steward our time and friendships by the things that make those choices for unbelievers in our culture. We also won't make those choices based on comfort, or based on legalism, or based on laziness. We will actively work at real friendships -- yes, social relationships! -- with people that we wouldn't naturally choose as friends. We will let the Holy Spirit shepherd our social lives. "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" will translate to transforming friendships with people that we didn't like at first, or maybe even 10 or 20 years into the friendship.

Anything else is injustice. "It's not fair!" And we each have the same responsibilities to the CHURCH and to the world that I have to my children and to my home. It is central to being a follower of Jesus.

So, this week, what is God calling you to remove from your calendar and task list so that you make room for Him? And which person that you don't really like but that wants some of your time -- social time, not "ministry time" -- is He asking you to go to lunch with, or invite over to your house, or accept the invitation to go to his or her house?

Or were you really serious about being a follower of Jesus after all, if He's going to mess around there, with your social life? After all, "it's not fair!" that your faith should interfere with your choices about who to spend time with and about who to allow into your home and into your intimate circles of friends. That's personal, isn't it?

Or is it?

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