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Monday, February 16, 2015

Love the Lord and hate evil

Love the Lord and hate evil.  Seems like a pretty easy command - straightforward and easy to grasp.  Yet, in all our struggling to do as this says, we find ourselves challenged with prejudices galore, fears of things which don't exactly "fit" our definition of "normal", and just plain silly misconceptions. There was a day not so long ago when healthcare workers wouldn't even touch the things which a patient with AIDS had touched, let alone be in their presence without a full garb of protective gown, mask, gloves, and the like.  I remember it well, as I was in nursing school in the 80's when the AIDS epidemic hit our nation.  I recall taking care of my first patient with AIDS - complying with the rules and regulations of the hospital and donning all that "protective garb" to keep not only me safe in my contact with this patient, but to keep others safe who might be contaminated if I brought something out of the room!  Man, did I ever feel like a dork!  I was dressed like this man was going to give me "coodies" if he even touched me!  I saw something that day which I really have tried to keep with me in my career - fear makes us do really weird things and isolates those who are struggling.  Don't shoot me now, but I took off my mask and goggles and just sat across from him for about 30 minutes each time I came in to do care.  Why?  He needed to see my face and understand I didn't fear his disease (nor him).  Did I take some chances in a time when this disease was basically the "unknown" - yes, I guess I did.  Yet, something happened when I did - we connected.  I wanted him to have some hope in the face of a devastatingly awful diagnosis.  If nothing else, I wanted him to have some dignity - to be treated as I would want to have been treated.  Lest you think I am cavalier in my respect for communicable diseases, I am not.  I just knew there was nothing going to happen to me if I just took off my mask (because I wasn't going to "breathe in AIDS").  I moved past the fear and let God guide my actions.  In that same moment, I had to move past some of my prejudged ideas of this disease, as well.  It may not be the things we know which hurt us and others, but the things we don't know but have come to accept as "truth"!

Love the Lord and hate evil! God protects his loyal people and rescues them from violence. If you obey and do right, a light will show you the way and fill you with happiness. You are the Lord’s people! So celebrate and praise the only God. (Psalm 97:10-12 CEV)

Prejudged ideas said this was a disease affecting only the gay community - yet this man was straight.  Prejudged ideas said I couldn't even touch him because he could infect me and others if I did - yet he feared giving this disease to anyone else more than any of us could have feared contracting it!  These were the little discoveries I began to make as I took the time to get to know the man. Sometimes we allow the "hype" about the issue to cloud our own judgment and an even more dangerous thing happens - we shut out God's concern for the one who has been caught in the tragedy of the issue.  I don't know about you, but I have seen a whole lot of things I definitely classify as "evil" in my short lifespan. Tragedies which leave families broken apart, children without parents, and lives in shambles.  Losses so great a person doesn't think there is anyway back from the depths of despair they have left in their wake.  Hearts so ruined by botched relationships, wrong life choices, and crazily conceived plans.  These are the evils I have seen and nothing can put a label on any of them as "unrecoverable" or "unworthy" of God's intervention and his love!  Yet, if we allow our "preconceived" ideas of "how" or "why" these things have happened in the lives of these individuals, we will clearly miss out on being the channel of God's love and maybe even becoming the channel of his intervention by which these lives are changed!

I guess I insulate myself from some of the hateful things people say and do these days - just because I don't want to be caught up in their messed up way of believing.  I didn't believe it possible for one church who calls themselves "Christian" to protest against another church who is also "Christian", but it happens all the time.  I didn't believe it possible for people who say they love Christ to exclude others who have yet to come into relationship with Christ because they don't "fit" into the lifestyle or belief system they claim to, but it happens all the time.  Yes, I clearly realize there are "churches" out there which preach a message contrary to the Gospel - the Good News of Jesus Christ.  Yes, I realize there are groups of individuals so consumed with their own ideas of right and wrong who "cherry-pick" what they will believe in the scriptures.  Yes, I believe there are people who don't welcome sinners because their "sin" is one they believe is "unpardonable".  

Here's what I have come to accept as truth from my discovery in God's Word: God is the ONLY judge of what is unpardonable!  I cannot make that determination.  I CAN see clearly when someone is living contrary to the message of the Gospel of Christ.  This I can see and I can honestly say that I believe God still reaches out for even these! After all, isn't that the message Christ preached:  For God so loved the WORLD that he gave his Son, that WHOSOEVER believes in him might have eternal life. The message doesn't stop there, though.  Maybe we'd do well to consider the "rest of the story", as Paul Harvey would have said.  God did not send his Son into the world to condemn its people.  He sent him to SAVE them!  (John 3:17 CEV)  Rather than condemning each other, maybe we'd be better served allowing God's love to show us the good in others - where it is they might help us to learn something new about this God we serve.  Maybe then we'd be less likely to "prejudge" anyone and be open to loving as God loves.  Just sayin!