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Paul was the best friend you could imagine and his caring spirit, sense of humor, and love of God will stick with me for a long, long time. I will miss him so much! Thanks for sharing these reflections on a life well lived, Mark.
Thanks Michele. Yes, this is an especially hard time of year to mourn the passing of a loved on. There will be an empty chair at the Buursma Christmas feast this year. I pray God will give them comfort, peace, strength, and they they will be comforted with the certain hope that they will indeed see Paul again.
My sympathies to you, Mark, as you mourn the passing of a friend at this time of the year. Losing touch with friends or loved ones is never easy, but around the holidays it's even harder. Praying for God' comfort to you and his family.
Thank you for writing this Mark. Looking forward to the great reunion in heaven the resurrection brings.
Michele, yes, it's sad that people fear others coming to church. Just a few days ago I just talked with a man who advocated in his own congregation for including people with various disabilities and the importance of making accommodations so that they can participate. He said that one person objected saying, "Well, if we make more accommodations, then more of those people might start coming." What a terrible thing! The church might grow. Oh no!!!!
Of course, this man did not fear church growth. He feared growth via people coming that he did not consider desirable. But the gospels make plain that Jesus was not concerned about the "right" kind of people coming to church. He was concerned about people coming to him, anyone, maybe especially people whom society pushes to the margins.
Our congregation in Montreal is inclusive, and I am not aware that anyone was asked to leave because they were different or handicapped in some way. On the contrary, we have added an elevator over the years to accommodate people who could not climb stairs, and the church p.a. address is used at congregational events to accommodate those who are hearing-impaired. And, of course, I as a member with schizophrenia have been part of this church for close to 40 years now. We also have a child in our congregation who has an Autism spectrum disorder, and none of us have ever been told we should leave.
I'm sorry for the people attending the congregation served by that pastor friend of yours because he needs to realize that handicapped people are no longer confined in nursing homes or asylums, and God doesn't put our personal convenience at the top of His priorities' list. I hope he smartens up. SOON.
Michele, yes, multiple studies confirm that people with mental illnesses are no more likely to be violent than people without mental illnesses. In fact, people with mental illnesses are much more likely to be victims of violence than the general population.
Regarding your comment about guns, in America, we have a constitutional right to "keep and bear arms." The constitution, however, does not instruct citizens how to do so safely or responsibly. I fear that some people, even law enforcement, are encouraging dangerous behaviors. After the San Bernadino attack, news sources are reporting that "Two sheriffs on opposite sides of the country this week are urging citizens licensed to carry a firearm to please do so in light of recent events. Among those asking citizens to carry every day is controversial Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio who on Tuesday publicly advised the state’s 250,000 permit holders that having a ready firearm could mean a difference between life and death in an active shooter incident involving a terrorist or other mass shooter." I find the sherriff's announcement terrifying. It encourages gun owners to come out with guns blazing whenever an attack like this happens. I suspect that if that actually happened, many more people would be killed than if law enforcement alone subdued the attacker.
I tend to think out loud in public places, and as a result sometimes when I get off a public transit bus some people look at me as if I were dangerous or something. This is another prejudice against mentally ill people. Actually, people who think out loud are probably a lot less dangerous than terrorists who strike when you don't expect them to and because you didn't the attack coming. You SHOULD be so lucky as to hear a terrorist thinking out loud, but it's not likely to happen. The truth is that the chronically normal are a lot more dangerous than mentally ill people who take their medication, and even many mentally ill who don't.
I pray that despite the fact that this last shoot-out was indeed a terrorist attack, the American people will come to a consensus about the need to control firearms AND take action on it. Don't let the NRA fool you. Having a handgun in a desk drawer will not help you if someone hell-bent on righting a perceived wrong barges in to your workplace with a machine gun. You won't have time to pull it out anyway. And how does the fact that so many Americans do have firearms contribute to the order of your society?
One more time Mark. You are right that Christians, like anyone else, should be allowed to voice an opinion. If I were facing a situation of great pain, or physical disability and hopelessness (for the future), I would want to know what opinions are being voiced and weigh the validity of each point of view. But I would not want someone telling me what I had to do, especially if I didn’t agree with a particular point of view. I wouldn’t want someone else’s viewpoint or religion imposed on me. After hearing the different arguments let me make my own choice. That’s what the physician assisted suicide advocates are recommending, allowing a person to make their own choice.. Not so for those opposed to euthanasia.
I think that Christians are caught between a rock and a hard place. The Christian’s strongest argument is the teaching that people have been created in the image of God (the sanctity of human life). Therefore because of the ultimate value of human life, a Christian or anyone cannot even consider suicide as an escape from pain and suffering. But this is a Christian argument and doesn’t argue well when establishing law in a pluralistic society.
The humanistic argument for forbidding euthanasia depends on logic and reasonableness in coming to a solution. What is the most humane way of handling such a situation? Does those arguing “for” or “against” euthanasia have the most reasoned and logical point of view. Christian and other religious points of view should be put aside when establishing law in a pluralistic culture. Based upon reason, I think that those favoring physician assisted suicide have the stronger argument on this front.
Thinking of the humane treatment of a much loved pet dog who has lost all of its legs, what would be the most humane treatment for this pet? No doubt, it would be to put the dog down (end its life). It would be inhumane to expect such an animal to live out its years without legs. But that’s what you are suggesting for a person. The owner of the dog would make the decision for his/her pet. In regard to a person (in a humane society) facing a life or death decision, he/she would be primary in coming to such a decision. You can think of all kinds situations of suffering pets, in which the most humane treatment is to put the pet down. But in the treatment of suffering and hopeless people, you suggest giving them no choice but to live in likely hopelessness.
Of course animals and people are different. People have the capability of logic and reason. Adults can logically and reasonably make important decisions for themselves, even in life and death situations. They should be given the dignity and the honor that belongs to human beings to do so. If they choose life, then by all means, those close to such a person will do all they can to make the remainder of their life comfortable and meaningful. If they choose death, then those close will also make the passing as comfortable and guilt free as possible. To give an individual the right of choice gives the individual the dignity and honor that humans deserve. The right to choose seems, to me, to be the only reasonable and Christian option.
Hi Roger, you are right. I could have done a much better job illustrating the painful situation in which many people find themselves when considering the option of physician-assisted suicide.
I believe that as Christians we can give arguments against physician assisted suicide from within a Christian worldview, and submit these as part of the public discourse. As I said, we have as much right to participate in the public square as others. In addition, there are organizations like Not Dead Yet that oppose assisted suicide that do not use arguments from a Christian worldview but from a humanist point of view. They too have as much right to be part of the public discourse on the topic as those who favor assisted suicide. This is not "imposing our opinion" on others but contributing to society's discussion on this topic.
I disagree with you that those who oppose assisted suicide "offer no options" to people in severe pain or living with severe disabilities. As I argued in my article, the options include excellent palliative care and excellent social supports (from the public and private sectors - this is where the church comes in) to do as much as possible to give difficult lives meaning, to keep people in meaningful relationships with other people, and to provide as much comfort as possible.
Thanks Mark for your clarifications. As to your examples, if the third was a made up example, as you say, you could have, at least, added some compassion to show the concern and suffering that such a cancer victim was likely experiencing. As it stands, it is still obvious where you stand simply from your examples.
When you suggest that opponents of physician assisted suicide are not faith based and do not use religious arguments to make their case, I hope that is not the case for you, as you represent a Christian organization, the CRC and Disability Concerns of the CRC. And you are addressing a Christian audience. As such, I would think your opposition to euthanasia would mainly lie in a distinctly Christian argument. Unless, of course, the Christian argument doesn’t carry much weight. Unless the Christian argument doesn’t represent ultimate truth. Unless you feel you can only argue from a humanistic point of view.
But then if you are arguing from a humanist point of view and not a Christian perspective, then there is no ultimate authority from which to argue. You can only argue from a position of opinion. And your opinion carries no more weight than that of others. I hope you recognize that Western opinion on a number of issues (including euthanasia) has been strongly informed and shaped by a long standing Christian tradition that has spanned centuries of thinking. That is rapidly changing in our pluralistic Western societies.
You suggest that Christians are part of our pluralistic society and have a right to add their voice to the mix of many voices. I think you have a right to add your opinion and certainly impose your own opinion on yourself. But to tell someone who fundamentally believes differently from you that they have to act according to your opinions or values in a pluralistic society is unjust. Christianity is no longer seen as the guardian of our society and culture. That is why groups such as “No Longer Dead” will argue their position from a humanistic perspective. But their humanistic perspective is no more compelling or authoritative than the humanistic perspective of those advocating for physician assisted suicide. Those wanting to legalize physician assisted suicide are not suggesting that anyone suffering or in pain must submit to such action. That would be wrong, as well. They simply want this to be an option. In contrast those protesting euthanasia are giving no options. People in severe pain or greatly disabled are not allowed to make such a decision for themselves. Therein lies the error of your view advocating for a Christian position ruling our pluralistic society.
If the Christian church (or Christians) wants to prohibit physician assisted suicide it should prohibit it within their own church or denomination. But why go outside of their own church (of like thinking) and try to prohibit it in society which is not under the jurisdiction of the church. If the church cannot enforce such a law in their own churches why should the church or Christians be allowed such authority in society.
There are other valid arguments for those advocating for physician assisted suicide, but I’ve said too much already. Thanks for listening and responding.
Roger, thanks for your comments. Clearly, you have thought a lot about this issue. My third example is made up, so it is difficult to paint as full a picture as with the other two which come out of my own experience.
You imply that the primary reason to oppose assisted suicide is that we live in a pluralistic society, and must not "impose our values" on others. I'm far from an expert in political science, but I would disagree with you on two fronts. First, Christians and other people of faith are part of that pluralistic society, so we and our values have as significant a place at the table as people with other value systems. We do have a right to add our voices to other's voices concerning what we believe to be best for people in society, and that should be done with the kind of respect that God calls us to have toward all people. Second, the primary opponents of legislation permitting assisted suicide are people of faith (various faiths) and disability rights groups. Not Dead Yet is a disability rights organization that vigorously opposes assisted suicide legislation. You'll find that none of their arguments are based on "Christian values", yet are powerful reminders of the dangers of such legislation for many vulnerable people in our society.
Compassion is a value I aspire to live by in all of life. If what I wrote appears to be uncompassionate toward people facing suffering and trail at the end of life, I'm sorry. However, if we only consider compassion toward people contemplating assisted suicide, we will be mislead. We must also have compassion toward other people, such as those for whom assisted suicide legislation endangers their lives (see the Not Dead Yet article referenced above). And if we are guided only by compassion, we will forget about other important values like justice.
Thanks Mark for your insights into the topic of euthanasia or physician assisted suicide. I noticed that in painting a picture of three different end of life situations, you painted the first two examples with a greater sense of compassion for the person dying than you did in the third example. From that alone, I knew where you stood on the topic of physician assisted suicide. In a sense, the rest of the article was not necessary to know where you stand. Had you painted a much more compassionate view of the third, your viewpoint would have not been so obvious from the start, and might have shown some balance.
Most Christians oppose physician assisted suicide because of their view of human life. Human life is sacred, not just valuable. The sanctity of human life stems fundamentally from people (as opposed to animals) being created in the image of God. And because humans are created in God’s image, we do not have the right to take that life from anyone. If humans were simply one step up the evolutionary ladder from monkeys, we might not feel the same. So it is our Christian perspective that pushes us in the direction of being pro-life, whether at the beginning or end of human life.
The fundamental question in our informed age is, do Christians have the right to impose their religious views on the general population? Because Christians believe in the sanctity of human life, should they dictate to the public that particular view? Wouldn’t that be like people of the Islamic religion wanting to impose sharia law on the general population of a democracy such as the U.S. or Canada? It is one thing for Christians to say that they believe in the sanctity of human life, but it’s entirely a different thing to impose our beliefs on others. The church should be staunch supports of such principles within their church communities, without imposing their views on others outside the church. Don’t we believe in a separation of church and state? I don’t know if the church does such an effective job within the church community, why should they go outside the church to impose their beliefs?
As for those promoting physician assisted suicide, they can definitely present and promote a much more compassionate and loving perspective on the topic than you have done with your third example. In fact, if shown in the way promoters intend, it is the most loving, compassionate, and hopeful thing that can be done (or allowed) for those facing severe pain and hopelessness.
Kory, Friendship Ministries is producing a new curriculum called "Together" that can be used in small group Bible studies that include people with and without intellectual disabilities. It's really exciting! Also, Walk with Me, a popular Sunday school curriculum for children, as well as hymnals, liturgical resources, and materials for adults are available in braille and/or large print from Faith Alive Christian Resources.
This is an excellent post, Mark. Not only do you note that one can live with disability and still be well, but you ask a critical question for all of us: Is my church the kind of community where people can be well as we live with our challenges? Focusing on the eight dimensions of wellness from SAMHSA can help us be the kind of community Paul envisioned in I Cor. 12. Thanks!
Latest - Shocking article regarding 'New Fetal Line from Live Abortion Emerges for Vaccine Production.
"For decades both the pharmaceutical companies and even some ethicists have insisted that the abortions to produce the cell lines used in vaccines were not done with that intention, that it was only a couple of abortions from the past and that no further abortions would be needed “now or in the future” to produce vaccines.
“This may be the biggest lie ever told to the American public and the world at large,” said Mrs. Vinnedge. “Not only have there been hundreds of abortions directly involved with vaccine research – specifically for that purpose where they altered abortion methods to obtain intact fetal organs , but we are now seeing more and more abortions for fetal research and new cell lines emerging for viral vaccine cultivation.”
"... the recent Planned Parenthood videos that have emerged through the Center for Medical Progress, (CMP) showing how live, fully intact fetuses have been harvested for aborted fetal research."
Angela, thanks for sharing. For those of us who do not yet live with disability, it's hard to imagine ever coming to the point of being able to say with you, " . . . accepting I have MS and embracing all God has for me now, I'm happier and have greater wellness then I did when I was fine and working." Considering that so many of us baby boomers will be acquiring disability in the coming 20 years, the next big thing for ministry is for people, like you, who have learned to be well and live with a disability to teach people who have newly acquired disability to do the same. Doesn't that sound like an exciting new arena for ministry?
I have Multiple Sclerosis and have come to accept my life and enjoy it most of the time. I recently had a conversation with someone in my church who asked if I prayed for God to cure me. I said that I prayed for daily strength, to do meaningful ministry, to learn well in my studies, to grow in intimacy with the Lord but no, I really didn't pray to be cured. I always pray for greater remission though. He was surprised and I realized that accepting I have MS and embracing all God has for me now, I'm happier and have greater wellness then I did when I was fine and working. God is faithful, no matter what is happening in our lives.
Thanks for sharing this blog! Job changes and unemployment can be very unexpected and we need to offer encouragement and resources to those who are looking for jobs. I'm also so grateful for companies that hire people with disabilities. They are an incredible asset!
To mourn a child.
There are losses so profound that special words are used to describe a new state of being – when you lose a parent you are called an orphan, bereaved spouses are called widows and widowers.
In the English language (and Afrikaans), there is no term that describes the loss of a child – perhaps the loss of a child is not perceived as different from other losses.
Jacob lived 22 years in the belief that Joseph, his son, had died. When his sons returned to Canaan without Simeon, Jacob was beside himself.
Jacob uttered the Hebrew word in Genesis 42:36 that is used for a parent that has lost a child – shakhul. He said to his sons: “…You have bereaved me; Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin.”
Shakhul is simply translated as “bereaved”, not capturing its true meaning.
Shakhul is used a few times in the Bible (for example Gen. 27:45, Gen. 42:36, Gen. 43:14), and means to “be robbed of offspring”. This Hebrew term reserved for bereaved parents describes their initiation into the unenviable fellowship of shakhul.
The recognition of being shakhul does not make this journey any easier, but there is comfort: the LORD treats the loss of a child in an honest and real way – as it should be. He designates a word that describes a parent that lives with the pain of losing a child – acknowledging that the loss is unique, traumatic and heart wrenching. The pain becomes a new reality – there is no new normality.
Revelation 21:4 “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
God bless, Anje
You've done a splendid job of capturing not only our visit with Ralph but also the impression he's made on so many of us, Mark.
Ralph is one of the CRC disability advocates who early on made such a strong and positive impression on me as the RCA's Disability Concerns ministry began its work with CRC Disability Concerns. Like you, I've had the privilege of seeing Ralph's gifts and skills shine in many arenas since we met six years ago — chairing meetings, leading workshops, planning conferences, managing a business, gathering resources for mission, networking and making connections, mentoring others … (the list goes on). Each is noteworthy and commendable, but as you've so beautifully captured in this post, what many of us in Ralph's cloud of witnesses admire most are his deep faith, gentle spirit, and indefatigable approach to life in the face of mounting challenges.
Beautiful and touching story. Thank you so much for sharing this, Mark.
Thanks for this great testimony.
My very first meeting in GR, I had the privilege of sitting with Hank and Ralph at a table for the day. Learned so much from the two of them and laughed a lot that day. Peace and blessings to Ralph.
This graph shows US measles deaths were negligible by the time the vaccine was introduced.
There is no vaccine for scarlet fever and yet it has practically disappeared similar to diseases for which a vaccine was created to take the credit for the natural reduction of cases and deaths due to improved sanitation and nutrition.
The following excerpt is from the American 1984 DHHS federal register, which listed final rules pertaining to the polio vaccination campaigns in USA after three decades of scandal and misinformation: http://lghttp.32478.nexcesscdn.net/80E972/organiclifestylemagazine/wp-co...
"any possible doubts, whether or not well founded, about the safety of the vaccine cannot be allowed to exist in view of the need to assure the vaccine will continue to be used to the maximum extent consistent with the nation's public health objectives"
In other words deny any possible risk of vaccination - just vaccinate. Like putting one's head in the sand and hoping for the best.
Readers, as Joy knows, she and I had a discussion about some of these topics not long ago, in case anyone would like to read the ways I addressed some of the concerns Joy raises, in particular, the effectiveness of vaccines, the claim that vaccines are made using aborted fetuses, and the link suggested between vaccines and autism.
There is also the issue of 'Original Antigenic Sin' that makes the vaccinated more vulnerable to the very diseases they were vaccinated against. A vaccinated person is not only able to catch the disease but can even get the disease more than once.
For more info read: http://vaccinechoicecanada.com/resources/books-periodicals/original-anti...
Someone has said: "We shouldn't be expected to set our children on fire to keep other children warm". As there are risks with every vaccine parents should not be coerced into vaccinating their children.
You are assuming that vaccines are actually effective. There have been many cases of epidemic of diseases such as measles and mumps in highly vaccinated environments, with the vaccinated being affected practically just as much as the unvaccinated.
In reality vaccines provide a false sense of security. Also a number of vaccines such as the MMR are live virus vaccines, i.e. can shed the virus for weeks.
No they are not authoritative. However, they do show what the general public feeling was regarding measles, i.e. it was not regarded as a fearsome deadly disease.
Of course Wikipedia could hardly be regarded as authoritative on any subject. It is curious how once they introduce a vaccine then the propaganda starts exaggerating the disease to scare people into vaccinating for a disease that was regarded as benign before vaccination.
Regarding measles cases the Wikipedia you quoted is absolutely false. This graphs shows the reported cases of measles:
This graph shows the US measles deaths which were negligible by the time the vaccine was introduced.
Something precious that is lost with mass vaccination is the protection a baby was designed (by God) to receive. When a mother as a child has measles then she has immunity for life and passes on the immunity to her babies. However a vaccinated mother only has temporary immunity and can provide very little if any protection to her children. That is why typically before mass vaccination of childhood diseases mainly elementary school age children are affected. After mass vaccination the most vulnerable tend to be affected, due to inadequate maternal immunity.
In the developing world where children are often severely malnourished a child could die just from a bad cold.
What would be your response when the child dies of a disease that could be prevented by a vaccine?
So the Donna Reed Show, The Flintstones and the Brady Bunch, constitutes the authoritative voices on whether to vaccinate or not? Here is a piece from Wikipedia (see below) The reason for vaccination is that measles kills children under 5 years old. That is why we started vaccination in the first place. Measles is a killer of the young and most vulnerable.
"The measles vaccine is effective at preventing the disease. Vaccination has resulted in a 75% decrease in deaths from measles between 2000 and 2013 with about 85% of children globally being currently vaccinated. No specific treatment is available. Supportive care may improve outcomes. This may include giving oral rehydration solution (slightly sweet and salty fluids), healthy food, and medications to control the fever. Antibiotics may be used if a secondary bacterial infection such as pneumonia occurs. Vitamin A supplementation is also recommended in the developing world.
Measles affects about 20 million people a year, primarily in the developing areas of Africa and Asia. It causes the most vaccine-preventable deaths of any disease. It resulted in about 96,000 deaths in 2013, down from 545,000 deaths in 1990. In 1980, the disease is estimated to have caused 2.6 million deaths per year. Before immunization in the United States between three and four million cases occurred each year. Most of those who are infected and who die are less than five years old. The risk of death among those infected is usually 0.2%, but may be up to 10% in those who have malnutrition."
BTW, I wonder what would have been the response/reaction of the pastor if the couple, who were persuaded by the pastor to have their children vaccinated, were to inform him afterwards that their child(ren) had been damaged by the vaccines that the pastor swayed them to get. Did this pastor, you mentioned, consider this possibility?
As someone has said: "We shouldn't be expected to set our children on fire to keep other children warm". As there are risks with every vaccine parents should not be coerced into vaccinating their children.
Where is the love for the vaccine injured children, in the church? Or would they rather deny that it was the vaccine(s) that harmed the child(ren).
Contributing to the tension is the propaganda (fear-mongering) regarding childhood diseases.
Compare the latest hysteria to how measles, for example, was regarded decades ago before mass marketing of the vaccine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDb0ZS3vB9g
I had measles as a child so I am immune for life, compared to temporary immunity from vaccine(s) that wanes. For example recent mumps outbreak amongst vaccinated hockey players. Mumps is more of an issue (for boys) from puberty onwards, therefore it would have been better if they actually had the mumps as boys.
We Don't Vaccinate - Myth and Reality of Vaccine Campaigns: https://vimeo.com/126792405 is an excellent documentary regarding the true facts regarding vaccination.
An important consideration for Christians is the fact that vaccines such as the MMR and chicken pox are made utilizing aborted (murdered) unborn babies. Actually scientists have found a link between vaccines made utilizing aborted unborn babies and autism. http://www.academicjournals.org/journal/JPHE/article-abstract/C98151247042 This is not surprising as autism used to be rare and now it is about 1 in 100 children (and getting worse).
Similar to the link between smoking and lung cancer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOkKNSs2xsQ
Thanks to everyone for the kudos! Special thanks to Jonathan Wilson for his excellent mentoring of me during his tenure with CRC Communications.
Bill, I'd like to see your statistics for this assertion. Disabilities I have in mind with regard to communication differences include intellectual disabilities, autism, and even (sometimes) fetal alcohol syndrome and schizophrenia. Rarely are these self-caused.
True, but most of the disabilities are self-caused.
I agree Shannon. Most parents make the decisions they make for their children because they believe they are doing what is best for their kids. But parents need to remember that these decisions can affect others, besides their own children, so we need to interact with one another in a gracious spirit.
Thanks for sharing this, Mark. I have seen these tense conversations going on in facebook groups as well. Whether about the decision to vaccinate your children, circumcise infant boys, or use pain medication in labor; there is a lot of judgment going on. I think, at the root, is all of our desire to do what's best for our children. Conversations and questions are good when they happen in relationship, and not just as shots on someone's facebook wall.
Please vaccinate your children, for the sake of everyone.
Thanks Mark, Judy certainly has it right. A person permanently confined to a wheelchair certainly faces a number of trials that those of us who are physically healthy don't begin to realize. It just takes a month in a wheel chair recovering from a broken leg or foot to realize the challenges of maneuvering in public spaces. A lot of those challenges come from the inconsideration of people and stores. Everyone should have the opportunity to spend some time in a wheel chair to get a hint of what a wheel chair bound person faces every day. Thanks for the reminder. And blessings to Judy as she faces a challenging life.
Thanks Michele for your article. I think we tend to judge other people as though I'm the official pattern of normal and anyone slightly different is abnormal. What a great challenge to love those who are different from ourselves. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for sharing this. John Richard sounds like a wonderful man and blessing to Neland. I love the mischief in the sermon story!
Thanks for pointing us towards Jesus' way of looking at things.
Thanks Duane, for an interesting article on normality. You interpret Psalm 139 more in terms of our physical and psychological makeup rather than moral makeup. You draw out the uniqueness of every individual to point out that God, in a sense, doesn’t look at us in some cookie cutter perspective, in which we are all the same. And certainly that fits well with a “disability concerns” sermon. But I’m not sure that you really connected with David’s thoughts in writing this Psalm. I think David’s confession was that God knew his heart and thoughts and knew either the purity or impurity of his being and thoughts. And this brings me to God’s basic understanding of our being. So what does God really think of us?
There’s no doubt that we are all unique and are individual. No one else like you or like me. But the real normal that the Bible or Christianity seems to emphasize is that we are all sinners. In fact looking at all human beings through the eyes of God, we are all failures, completely with no one excluded, except one. When Christians are asked, what makes Christianity unique from all other religions, the answer given is usually, Jesus Christ. Christianity is the only religion that provides a Savior, who is Jesus, who is set apart from all others. But the other unique factor that distinguishes Christianity from all other religions is that all people, none excluded, are moral failures in the eyes of God.
The God of other religions doesn’t look at people in such a way. People are given the life long opportunity to serve and love their neighbors, as well as God. We don’t read of the God of other religions setting the bar at any particular height. So it might seem as though their may be a variety of passing grades by which to win God’s approval ,such as A through D before getting to F for failure. Even the Mormons think that by far most people will make it to heaven, even if not a Mormon. But our God (the Christian God) says, of yourselves, you are all failures.
We’re all failures in God’s eyes because we miss his mark of absolute perfection, whether by a little or a lot. A miss is a miss. That seems to be a pretty high standard for God’s created creatures (human beings). After all he didn’t create us as Gods. We’re not expected to be all knowing like God, why perfectly holy?
But the good news is that he sent a Savior into the world. But wait. The Savior isn’t really for everyone, but only for his chosen ones (L - limited atonement). Whereas most have never even heard of Christ, let alone been persuaded by the Holy Spirit, therefor are condemned. I’ve heard of other religions having secret or hidden truths. I guess we, as Christians, are no different. Let’s talk as though the good news (the gospel) is good for everyone. But, of course, it’s not (just read the Canons of Dort).
So you ask, how does God see people? Primarily, as moral failures, deserving of eternal damnation. Not a very happy thought, about us or about God. I think you could have picked a better Psalm, Duane. Perhaps, I shouldn't have read Psalm 139 along with your article. Anyway, thanks for your article. It does make a person think.
Thanks, Duane. Good reflection and reminders for me.
Michelle, I praise God that you know what it is to belong and serve well within your congregation, but congregations are not the same. Pastors have to tailor their messages to their own congregations. I know Greg. He's a wonderful, sensitive person who has a great deal of empathy about mental illnesses. I fully expect that he wrote this and preached it for a congregation that was in a different place than your own. We're all on a journey.