This morning someone posted a link on Facebook to the obituary of a beautiful 23 year-old woman who died at a Red Roof Inn in Danville, PA on Saturday. I did not know Delaney, but her story made me weep. She was yet another life cut short too soon by addiction and heroin overdose.
Her diary reveals a woman tormented, alone, in the grip of a terrible evil that stole her life, one injection at a time. I wondered if she was welcomed by anyone, if she ever tried to find peace in a church, if she ever felt that kind of rejection that says, “we don’t let your kind of people in here”? The curse of drug abuse and addiction flows from multiple causes. It is a complex issue, but I believe that the roots are spiritual and that the ‘cure’ is the love of Christ and His family. But, can that self-described ‘junkie’ find Him if she is turned away at the door of His church?
Christian friend, loving people like Delaney is messy, difficult, and often disappointing. Their obvious brokenness reminds us of our less visible sinfulness, doesn’t it? There is comfort in gathering with others in God’s family wearing smiling faces, clean clothes, and all the stuff that goes with a successful, middle class American lifestyle. Then, that person shows up who is ‘that kind of person,’ a haunted look, lacking the graces that we learned early, and they trouble us. We may not speak aloud, but does our body language loudly proclaim, “You are not us. You are not welcome”?
May these questions confront our pride, our fear, and our judgments. “For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?” (1 Corinthians 4:7, NLT) The fact, unpleasant as it may be, it that in our natural state we are broken rebels, cursed to destruction. “All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:3-5, NIV)
The tragedy is that so many of us, after having been graced by love, conclude that we are part of a meritocracy, that we now ‘deserve’ the lives we have found. We may, for years even, sail along convinced that we are somehow better than ‘those people,’ above their sins and addictions. Jesus has little time for that self-righteousness. The Pharisees who earned much scorn from Him were ‘good’ people, responsible citizens, and keepers of the religious rules. Yet, they were blind to their own spiritual poverty. Jesus shocked them by calling them ‘white washed tombs,’ gleaning on the outside but full of death! He said they were the ‘blind leading the blind.’
Ah, Christian friend, it is not that we celebrate sin or dysfunction. It is not that we do not rejoice in our spiritual freedom. We pursue holiness, but always remembering that we are the graced, the forgiven, those who have received mercy. In that humility we are always ready to love and accept, because being loved, we love.
Here is a passage I love. May His beauty shine through the cracks of my life, His grace seep from me to those who are in need, the love I have found in Him be the love I give away without respect of person, place, or position. “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10, NIV)
Abba, make me a lover of others;
Gentle as You are,
Persistent in the face of disappointment,
Wise in the ways of love,
Every hopeful, never cynical,
Child-like in trust,
Open and authentic.
Jesus, I thank you for loving me,
Then and now, in brokenness and wholeness.
Thank you for the Cross that bridged the gap
Between me and my Father,
For the Resurrection that closed the chasm between
Time and eternity.
Spirit of God, make me a man of purpose and passion,
To defeat evil, to lead the lost, to show the Way.