Honoring ALL Human Life
By Debbie Rodgers
It was 1998 and his name was Matthew Shepard. He was 22 when he was brutally beaten to death. I found my mind wandering as I watched clips of his funeral service on TV. I wondered what his life might have been if not taken so soon. I thought of Abel from the Bible and the amazing things he might have accomplished if only…. my mind wandered around in a field of blood as the fruit of a brother's hatred was tasted for the first time on planet earth (Genesis 4:8). I sat thinking about how far man has wandered from the garden, which led me back to that current event that I was now observing in horror. People outside the funeral service held up signs - signs that said things like, "God hates gays." I saw the grieving parents walking out of the service. Surely, they had to be dealing with issues only God can answer - painful questions that start with, "why." Why was our son taken so soon? Why did he struggle so much with his identity? Why are these people holding up such hateful signs?
"Yes," I thought, "why are those people holding up such hateful signs and who are they?" Then I heard them interviewed, and I was more horrified than before. Those people were me. They were church-going folks who believe in Jesus. Then I wondered, "how is this possible?" How can this be? Our entire faith revolves around the penetrating love of a Father who would do anything to have us reconnect with Him again. Actually, He did. He did do everything that was needed for that connection with us. So why were all these seeming very angry people holding up all those hateful signs?
I was angry too, and baffled. My anger at those people with the signs was taking me over until it took me to my own past. It was there that my heart convicted me. It was in those memories of past behavior that I realized I too had held up signs. Maybe not literally, but certainly in the way I viewed others, others who didn't agree with me. Inside my thoughts, I held up signs that were filled with anger and hatred. Even though those messages were hidden deep within the crevasses of my own heart, I know people could still read them. Others must have felt the judgment when I spoke - the lack of mercy when I answered. Surely they could sense the words that condemned them. I held up graceless signs to people who didn't believe as I did. What was I thinking? Had I actually thought that somehow because I believed certain things, I was better than others? And, there it was – the truth. That was exactly what I thought. It struck me as ironic that my relationship with Christ, which I was only able to receive through humility, became the very source of pride in the way I viewed others who may not yet know Him.
There is subtleness about spiritual pride. It's subtle because it seems right. It is a driver that enters us into conversations with others with an agenda to save them, but not necessarily to love them. It puts the cart before the horse. It creates signs that yell out condemnation over external acts instead of whispering expressions of love that call to the heart longing for such a thing. How did our posters, signs, and emails stray so far from the promise of reconciliation with a God who loves – a Father who longs for relationship.
We the church, have not always thought through the entirety of our beliefs. We are huge proponents in the effort to honor and protect the unborn life that is made in the image of God, but our message falls very short in the effort to honor that same life when fully grown. We have to find a better way to disagree and still love. If we are truly going to honor life, we have to be consistent. I am not suggesting we opt out of biblical truths. I am suggesting that we do a better job of communicating those truths in love.
When I realized that I was guilty of angry, hateful signage in my life, it humbled me. I feel it now as I write. It is humility that can place God on His throne and still purposefully love every person we will ever encounter. We don't have to choose one or the other. The answer is both.
I still see the anger today. It's everywhere. I had an encounter with my own angry heart in 1998. I found myself on my knees holding up a sign towards Heaven and Earth that read, "Please, forgive me." Maybe, that's a good place to start again.
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Debbie Rodgers is a sixth generation Texan and a graduate from the University of Texas in Austin. She started DRodgersGroup,Inc. over 15 years ago with a focus on corporate training and development. Themes of her life message focus on inspiring individuals to live proactively, improving interaction with others through understanding, and living life on genuine terms. Send your comments to Debbie
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