White Out

I originally meant for this post to be about the Duggar kid and the admission that he molested the young girls in his family.  As a father with two young sons, I understand and appreciate the outrage related to anyone who dares harm a child, especially one in their own family.

A few years back I worked at the Children’s Home of Reading, a day school for youth with behavioral and emotional issues. I helped with their summer school for the residential population.  These were young men with issues, many victims of molestation themselves.  It broke my heart to see the products of innocence shattered by hands outside their control.

That is the issue.  It takes a monster to force their will sexually on a child. When that monster is a member of a family paraded on television trumpeting their “Christian” values, the anger is taken to another level. When you continue to read and discover how the family concealed and ignored the problem, you hit critical mass.

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So what have we learned?

Grace does not exclude consequences.  I believe in grace.  I also believe that we have a conceptualized image of grace that has damaged the church over the years.  When the Duggar parents refused to go to the police, they were wrong.  They sent a message to the victims that their son’s life mattered more in the grand scheme of things. Josh Duggar freely admits his actions and claims his forgiveness by his faith.  It is easy to do when you’re not sitting in jail for victimizing four little girls. Grace is a spiritual transaction not an excuse.

It is not a “get out of jail free” card.

Grace does exclude reality. The Duggar’s have been published making derogatory comments towards communities of different sexual orientations.  They had a chance to show both their son and his victims that they were taking this seriously. They could live in the real world and not hide their fear and hatred behind the wall of “faith,” yet they choose not to.

They claim to follow the teachings of Jesus, but their actions have little to do with Loving Your Neighbor (Mark 12:31). They are more than comfortable condemning perceived sin and yet Ignore the Plank in Their Own Eye (Matthew 7:5).

And this is the problem.

As the public pulls away in disgust, the Duggar’s keep saying “No, don’t worry. He’s forgiven. It’s all okay.”

Let me apologize.

As someone who claims to follow Jesus, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that we’ve taken faith, married it to conservatism, and tried to sell it as THE WAY. I’m sorry that so many with a public forum represent Jesus so poorly. When people associate the term Christian with the family on 19 Kids and Counting, we’ve screwed up more than we know.

As a father, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry that men lack the backbone to protect their family when it is needed.  I’m sorry that they do not fight for their marriages and lead their children.  They care more about image than truth. We follow a God that led his own son to the cross and did not protect him from what needed to be done to change the world.

We love our kids, but not at the level of sacrificing and teaching what is right. Our love for our kids will never end, even if it means calling the police when the problem is out of your control.

Our forgiveness does not mean forgetting.  Our grace is not God’s grace, for that would put us on the level of the divine and we are not close. Our slates are never clean, they are gradually washed through years of faith, study, friendship, prayer, worship, laughter, conversation and change.

Peter denied knowing Jesus three times.  After the resurrection, Jesus asks him three separate times if he loved him, following Peter’s answers with commands to “Feed my sheep.”  We read that Peter is hurt after the third question.  The parallel is complete.  Jesus made him face his denials. He didn’t say, “Peter, don’t worry about it, it’s all good.”

We must all face our actions.  Jesus is waiting on the other side ready to send us out as soon as we answer.  If we keep silent, hiding behind our politics, constructs, “faith” or fear, we will never hear his words.

Silence is much worse than any painful conversation waiting in our future.

~Matt

 

 

Why I Believe

I’ve seen the beauty of a sunrise over the ocean.
I’ve seen the beauty of a sunset over a baseball field
I’ve held my sons just after they were born, looked into their eyes and understood.
I’ve suffered and found meaning
I’ve succeeded and found joy
I’ve gotten lost in a guitar solo
And a good book
I’ve spoken to a homeless man happy to have a bed for the night
I’ve seen the impact of death on parents, relatives, and friends
I’ve seen myself in my father’s eyes
I deeply and passionately love a woman who completes my sentences and my soul
I’ve cried in laughter
I’ve felt the electricity in a changed and charged heart
I’ve heard the stories.

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What do I believe?

I believe love can change the world
I believe we can join hands across lines
I believe violence is not the answer
I believe in innocence
I believe in life after death
I believe we are here to serve
I believe in a hand up, not a hand out
I believe sin can be a window or a mirror
I believe the playing field should be level
I believe in young leaders with revolutionary ideas
I believe that Good is not Dead
I believe It is Worth It

I believe in a faith that can shatter preconceptions, create love from hate, build bridges, and give hope and strength to the person who feels they can’t get up in the morning.

I believe in difficult conversations held in a public forum where every voice is heard, from the loudest scream to the softest whisper.

I believe

Your

Story

Matters

 

~Matt

The Struggle of Grace

Val sent me a text message this afternoon at work.  It said that she was sick over a child abuse case in the news that was going around Facebook.  I try to avoid the news in general but, in a slow afternoon, I decided to look it up.

In a trailer home just outside Coatesville, PA, three-year old Scotty McMillan was beaten to death by his mother and her boyfriend. The abuse happened over a few days and started when Scotty refused to eat his breakfast.  Local news coverage is here.  I’ll warn you, the details are enough to give you nightmares.  Authorities stated it was the most severe case of abuse they had ever seen.

So the child’s mother and her boyfriend are both facing murder charges.  The prosecutor has said he will ask for the death penalty.

Is he right?

As someone who follows Christ, I stumble over grace.  We know the concept. We understand forgiveness and redemption. It is freely given for those willing to take it.  We talk with friends, life groups, peers, and family members and nod with sage understanding.  Yes, grace.  Grace.  Grace for all!

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Then this happens.

As a father, my heart burns with a desire to see punishment. Look up the news article and you’ll see pictures of Scotty.  He was a beautiful, innocent boy who did not deserve to be tortured.  As a man, I want justice.  Child abusers are monsters in the purest form.  No child deserves physical violence.

It is a philosophical tug of war.

The Bible tells us, forgive seventy times seven, don’t let the sun set on your anger, love your neighbor. We tell ourselves such trite lines as hate the sin, not the sinner, patting ourselves on the back for being a solid judge of character and putting ourselves in a position of power, not humility.

We jump on our pedestals and hold grace high above those who need it.

I guess I’m not there yet. I feel more like Peter, ready to pull his sword and strike at the threat against Jesus. It is a walk, a battle, and a process.

Scotty has returned to his true home in the hands of his Creator.  He’s running and playing in a paradise greater than anything on this planet.  He is finally safe. His mother and her boyfriend will pay for their crimes. Their sin will be judged.  Maybe some out there can forgive these people.

I want Scotty to have not died without a purpose.  I want his killers to face justice, in this world and the next.  I want one parent reading the news coverage to hesitate the next time they feel angry enough to raise their hands against their children. These horrific events can create a ripple effect across the world.

Grace makes for a great sermon topic, book, and podcast. We can talk a good game but, can we live it?  When we face true evil, how do we respond?

No one is perfect.  We have our own scars and we are works in progress.  The first step is recognition, as anyone in AA knows. One day our lives will end and we will fully understand grace, we will meet Scotty in heaven, we will be new creations.

Until then, the struggle continues.  What if it was a little boy you knew and loved? The imperfect man in me wants retribution for Scotty’s death.

And I’m okay with that.

~Matt

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