The school shooting demonstrates how broken this world is. Although, at times in human history, we have been able to restrain man’s evil heart by cultural means, however, sin remained. Women were less than men. Racism in all its evil pride lurks in our hearts and institutions. Sure, the Greatest Generation sounds great on paper for some. We didn’t have mass murders in schools, but let’s not gloss over that every generation has tried to restrain evil and failed.
I can’t imagine the grief these parents will have to walk through. Remember, picture the parents, then remove all their bones, and tell them to walk. They can’t, but some-how grieving parents find a way to keep going. Have you ever noticed, there isn’t a name for grieving parents? We have orphans and widows and widowers, but there isn’t a word for grieving parents. For these parents and this community the devastation has just begun.
I think about the shooter and what has come out about his life. When is the church going to take back it’s God given mandate to care for the fatherless and stop relying solely on foster care. I remember reading a startling statistic that if every church came together, chose a family to support (financially, socially, etc.), and adopted one orphan, we wouldn’t have any need for orphanages. We are the royal priest hood. God’s chosen ambassadors to the world to make disciples. This mandate costs, but for some of us we don’t see ourselves as chosen for anything.
At first, thinking about what I have been through pales in comparison to Parkland, but whatever rejection and devastation we have endured is big to us. I am overwhelmed by God’s truth that He accepted me. I have been verbally abused and mocked by a caregiver that should have loved me. I have been physically abused by a boyfriend that said he wanted to marry me. I have been rejected by friends that said they stood with me, only to reject my grief. I have done destructive things to myself and others. We all have our sad stories of rejection and destruction, but when I think about what Jesus endured for us, it doesn’t compare.
I am accepted because He was rejected.
The Bible clearly records that before the creation of the world God knew that Jesus would have to be sacrificed to restore creation. I can’t imagine setting out to create something that I knew would fail me, but God loves us that much. He didn’t make us robots that had no choice but to mindlessly obey him. This opened the world up to all kinds of evil. Ever since Adam and Eve took the first bite of the forbidden fruit, humans have been destroying one another.
I was in a small group of believers that were seeking to be healed from past hurts. One of the believers said, “I don’t understand how God can be good, and sit back a let me as a little innocent child endure sexual abuse? I’m angry at God!” We sit back and ask how could God allow mass school shootings. When God allowed humans to choose Him, He allowed us to choose to sin against him and sin against one another. The truth is, we love being able to choose. We hate when others choose to be selfish and hurt us, but we don’t like being told what to do. Some would call this a conundrum.
On one hand we hate evil, but we seem to keep choosing to be evil.
Maybe some of us can’t identify with the example of childhood sexual abuse, but we are all devastated by another mass school shooting. And personally, we all have been rejected or made to feel worthless at one time or another.
The explosive thought I had is that God can relate to us. Jesus, who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage rather he humbled himself into the womb of a teenage girl. He became a baby, dependent on one of his creations to do everything for him. He took on flesh knowing that he would then humble himself again by becoming obedient to death on the cross. We skipped over that He knew that the very people he came to save would reject him. Oh, and one of his twelve closest friends would betray him, giving him up to be killed by the religious authorities.
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely, he took up our pain and bore our suffering yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:3-6
The punishment that brings us peace was on him. My favorite passage that I could quote at the end of every post is Ephesians 1:3-8. The key words in that passage are “in Him”. Our peace, forgiveness, acceptance, worth, everything begins and ends with “in Him”. In a culture that is “me” obsessed this doesn’t make any sense to us in the beginning. We seek to find ourselves and heal our self-image. In vain, we try harder to be better and achieve more. These things always leave us needing more. Some of us look at the drug addict without realizing that we can be just as addicted to acceptance by whatever means we are searching for it: religion, success, self-image, Christian service. Yes, we can even use the church to bolster our-self-image and worth. We are using religion or Christian service like some use success or drugs to feel acceptable or worthy.
We must face the truth that there is nothing that we can do or not do to be acceptable to God. There is nothing that can be done to us or for us that makes us worthy or worthless.
Our good works are like filthy rags. Unless our righteousness exceeds the most righteous person we know, we will not be accepted. Maybe now our pride is beginning to expand with all the times we did the right thing. However, it is impossible to go through this life without becoming angry or lusting for love from someone. Let’s face it, we can’t go through the normal crazy feelings of puberty without sinning. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, Jesus reveals the truth of our desperate situation. He demonstrates that man is unable to keep all of God’s law thereby making them unworthy.
At this point some of us are pulling out our salvation as a badge. But how do we live? What situations make us feel rejected? Where are gaining value? What makes us feel worth or worthless? What is the motivation for our good works? Why are we nice to people? Sometimes our motivation is to win the praise of men so that we feel good about who we are. There are too many situations where we wrongly use religion, success, or self-worth to go into detail about all of them.
I want to focus our attention on the Beginning and the End. Without being “in Him” we are unacceptable. We are on unworthy on our own. Righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. God gave us Jesus as a sacrifice, the reparation for our unacceptable deeds, to be received by faith. This faith in the finished work of the cross makes us acceptable to God. Why do we continually struggle with feelings of being unaccepted or unworthy?
The first reason may be unconfessed sin. A sweet girl in my life submitted her will and life to God, but she thought she could make confession to God alone. She continued to struggle in self-doubt because she needed to make confession to the other people that she sinned against. James 5:13 says to confess our sins to one another so that we can be healed. Only fools mock at making amends for sin, but good will is found among the upright, Proverbs 14:9. When we make confession to the ones we’ve hurt, we begin repairing the relationship. When relationships are broken we feel rejection. Confession clears those feelings giving way for us to accept one another and we can feel God’s acceptance. The problem does not begin with God’s acceptance, our feelings are clouding God’s truth in our lives.
Secondly, we have a real adversary. The Evil One roams this earth looking for whom he may devour. Jesus calls him the Accuser of the Brethren. Do you feel accused? The difference between conviction and condemnation is found here. The Accuser of the Brethren will make you feel frightened, confused, obsessed, depressed, and rushed. The only way to beat him is to draw close to God and he will flee from you. How do we draw close to God? We know His truth. What makes you acceptable, JESUS. How are you forgiven, JESUS! It’s JESUS, JESUS, JESUS! Making confession to God and those we have hurt will combat all the nasty feelings that we feel when we are accused. We simply will not have anything for the Evil One to use.
Thirdly, holding on to past hurts that violated us as Image Bearers keeps us feeling worthless and shamed. At some point in our lives, we got the message that bad things would not have happened to me if I was worth more. This is a lie. When someone harms another person, they are selfishly taking what does not belong to them. This is another blog post to come, but God does not make different classes of people. We are all equally image bearers. The Bible contains a treasury of verses teaching that God does not have favorites. He does not make “throw away girls” and “good girls”. He creates every girl to be loved and cherished, imbuing each of us with value because He created us to belong to Him. I have felt like a “throw away girl.” I found freedom in declaring that the abuse I suffered is sin. I agreed with God (repented). I released the abuse and the abuser to be judge by God, therefore, I can stop judging myself as worth-less than the abuser or others who have not been abused. We are equal in God’s sight. We are “sheep that have gone astray each of us to our own way.” There is nothing in us that deserved to be harmed, rather, we each have free will. We can freely choose to follow God, or we can freely choose to harm others to fulfill our selfish desires. Abuse is about the abuser not the innocent. Now, we can face the aftermath of the abuse. Many of us begin to self-abuse. Hand in hand, repentance and forgiveness, we go back to my first point and ask God to forgive us because we have self-abused. We’ve damaged ourselves. We need to repair the relationship with ourselves.
Conviction is a good feeling leading us to grace. Condemnation makes us feel hopeless. We never enter a time of confession without Jesus’s grace. The price has been paid. We have no fear in uncovering our hurts or bad deeds before our God. Freedom is found in repentance. Holding on to our sin is like playing tug-of-war. As long as the people on each end of the rope are tugging, we are at war. We let go of our end of the rope by making confession and forgiving those who have hurt us. No matter how hard they may tug on their end, if we’ve released ours, the war is over. But until we have released the rope, we are still a prisoner of war. If this seems too difficult to do that’s because we must move from a place of power to confessing we are powerless.