Friday, January 16, 2015

Thrown Under the Bus

"When [Noah] drank some of its wine, he became drunk and lay uncovered inside his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father naked and told his two brothers outside. But Shem and Japheth took a garment and laid it across their shoulders; then they walked in backward and covered their father’s naked body. Their faces were turned the other way so that they would not see their father naked.” (Genesis 9:21-23 NIV)

I have to be honest with you. While the entire story of Noah and the ark is simply amazing, this is the part that stands out the most to me. Noah was a man God found to be faithful. God asked Noah to save civilization by taking on the daunting task of building the ark and then guiding it through the storm as the earth was flooded. It blows me away that after all is said and done, this is how his story ends. Faithful Noah ended up drunk and naked in his tent. Noah's sons were believers and out of respect for their father, they humbly walked into the tent backwards and covered his naked body. There is a whole lot to be unpacked here. Let me share a few thoughts.

Notice what Noah's sons did not do. They could have easily confronted their Dad and say "Really? God just used you over the past however many years and this is how you show your gratitude? I wonder if you are even a Christian at all…” Thankfully that is not what they did. I like to think they respectfully covered him because they saw their own humanity in their Dad. Even though God used Noah in a mighty way there was still a human side to him. As mature Christians I think they understood that their Dad's story was their story. There is a never-ending cycle throughout human history that continues today: God creates, man sins, God redeems. On and on it goes.

Also, notice how Noah's sons did not go and announce to the world what he had done. I am quite confident there were other people around at this point since Noah used grapes from his own vineyard that he himself planted to make his wine. Noah's sons could have told others. Using modern day terminology, they could have “thrown him under the bus.” Despite all of the good things their father had done, they could have very easily used this one story to discredit him. They chose instead to see their father the way God did: with mercy and understanding.

These are two very important lessons we need to learn from this story. I, like you, have many “good reasons” to throw people under the bus. Looking back on many of my blogs, I was angry and hurt by vocational ministry and many of the people I had worked with. I have to admit that I even figuratively had my arms extended, ready to give a shove if provoked…but chose not to. Why? At the end of the day what would it accomplish? Would lashing out empower me? Perhaps, depending on how you define “empower.” I have not acted that way because I realize that it would really serve no great purpose. There is but only one “accuser of the saints” and that is Satan (Revelation 12:10). If a person feels it is their role to accuse their fellow brother or sister, one has to wonder who that person is serving. I can tell you this: it ain't God.

This has happened to me on two occasions that will forever be etched into my memory. At one point I was going through a tough time and vented about how I felt in one of my blogs. A pastor in the city I used to live in called me out by name in his Sunday morning message. I was outraged and hurt by this. After thinking about it for awhile I could not help but remember the many good things this man has done for God. He is an awesome man who is devoted to his family and congregation. We have different approaches to ministry but God is using him and it was simply not my place to respond to what he said and in essence, “throw him under the bus.” People knew I was upset but I chose not to talk about it publicly. Another time was when a Christian radio program went on a week long rampage discrediting me and and my ministry because of a message series I was doing at my church, Radiant Fellowship. It was a Christmas series that went after the outcasts of society. Once again, I reminded myself that this radio station does many awesome things for God and I had to understand that it was simply a person sharing his opinions and that the radio station itself was not to blame. Again, I chose not to “throw them under the bus” by lashing out in anger or allowing myself to become resentful.

It has been said that hanging onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. How true that is! At the end of the day there is nothing good that can come from being bitter, resentful, and full of anger. We are all fallen people in need of a Savior. Truth be told, all of us have something that would make us look less than godly if it was brought to light.

Some people feel it is their spiritual gift to gossip and discredit a fellow believer because they think they are the more “mature” Christian and the one being gossiped about needs correction. Can you imagine if your pastor did this? You cannot fathom the amount of private, personal, and intimate details a pastor knows about the people he or she is ministering to. This information is meant to be kept confidential. What would happen if your pastor began to share the less than stellar details about everyone’s lives? Even if it was cloaked in the “desire to help,” it would be wrong.

We live in a society where people are ever so bold behind the keyboard of their computer but back down when confronted in person. We have to learn to use technology to build bridges rather than to burn them. A few years ago I emailed many of the people who had hurt me in the past. I sought their forgiveness and offered mine as well. Virtually all of the responses I received were very favorable and this took a huge burden off my shoulders. Not every situation should be handled this way. Sadly, there are times when reaching out would stir up more hurt and anger so it’s important to let God lead you before you make a move. There will be times that you simply make the choice in your mind to forgive a person, let go of the hurt, and trust that God will make things right.

It is truly sad when anyone hurts us, but the sting is especially harmful when the blow is delivered by a fellow Christian. In an ideal world these things would not happen, but unfortunately they do. None of us are perfect but we can choose to be like Noah’s sons who simply “[covered] their father’s naked body.” We can choose to show mercy to the merciless and forgiveness to those who don’t deserve it. We can choose to walk away knowing there will be pain in our fallen world and even though it may take a while, with God’s help we can move forward in freedom. Let the past be the past and show mercy and understanding even when it doesn’t feel fair.

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