by Deborah Schiefer
It’s ironic to me that in the months leading up to the Church’s celebration of one of the greatest gifts known to all of mankind, I’ve been witness and victim to the bullying, harassment, and judgment from the very people who claim the name of the One who saved them out of their spiritual poverty and despair.
You may be thinking to yourself, “Youch. This isn’t the hopeful Advent blog I was looking forward to reading.”
If you are, you’re right, but you’re also wrong. Bear with me? Because there is hope. And there will be. But first, I’m asking you to reflect this Christmas season. It’s already a reflective season, yes? We look back to the birth of the Messiah. The One who came to Earth purely to live a spotless life and sacrifice Himself in the most brutal murder just to wash us like snow.
Wash us. While we were still His enemy, He died for us. Knowing that the majority would reject His offer and spurn His sacrifice, He went to the cross.
Okay, so technically, it started that day in the Garden of Eden, but I digress. Just follow me. Reflect with me but reflect within.
Because in His coming, there were five women mentioned in the genealogy given in the Gospel of Matthew. In a hugely patriarchal society, women were mentioned. If these last several months are any indicator, most of you would have called for the stoning of several of these women. Definitely Tamar. Quite possibly Rahab. Bathsheba, for sure. And almost undoubtedly… I think most of you would have called for the stoning of Mary.
There’s the woman who seduced her father-in-law. The one who was a prostitute. The one who was an adulterer… or so we assume if we were raised in the Church where we ignore the imbalance of power and the victimization through voyeurism (that’s a discussion for another day). The one who miraculously became pregnant and even her betrothed initially assumed an affair.
So many of you would definitely have called for their stoning.
Ironically… or maybe not… one of the key players in this event of tearing down one of our own on baseless accusations has a really great article linking each of these women to a specific theme in the story of redemption (https://www.focusonthefamily.ca/content/the-women-in-jesus-genealogy-an-advent-reflection). They somehow managed to connect God’s desire to use all of us despite ourselves here but entirely missed it in the life of one of their own who experienced God in a powerful way, was changed, and become a new creation.
Again, I’m sidetracking.
But also, I’m not. That’s the exact point I want to make. That’s the exact reflection I hope I inspire each of us to do within ourselves. Are we so willing to grant God’s goodness, forgiveness, and redemptive power to those in the Bible and deny His power in our modern evangelists? We accept that before Saul became Paul on the Road to Damascus, he was one of the most ruthless hunters of Christians. We accept that David was a murderer, Noah was a drunk, Moses had a massive temper, Abraham lacked faith, Tamar committed incest, Rahab sold her body, Bathsheba possibly had an affair (and if not, then David was also a rapist), Peter denied Christ, Thomas refused to believe He had risen… I could go on, but the point is that we accept these things and also accept that God used these very same people despite themselves. God redeemed them.
Yet, when faced with the marred past of one of our peers who has already been open about her repentance and redemption, we refuse to believe that God may have held the same transformative power in her life that He’s granted to so many before.
That He’s granted to you.
If we dig deep within ourselves, I think we’d find that the reason we refuse to give the same grace to our cohorts that we give to Biblical historical figures might be something sinister and sinful. It’s a means of self-elevation but it’s deceptive. In our attempt to elevate self by focusing on the sins of others, we not only spit on the Cross but we also lower ourselves to a position of pride, arrogance, and gossip.
And so I’m here, reflecting on self. Recognizing my own anger which, though righteous, most definitely borders and falls into sin a lot lately. Asking you to join me in self-reflection.
The Advent season is a time to honor God, honor His gift, and honor the Son with memories and traditions that point to Christ. Perhaps this year, we should learn a lesson from the pain experienced by so many of us who are in or have recently left the evangelical Pro-Life Movement. Perhaps this lesson might lead us to a new tradition.
While we reflect on all God accomplished between Bethlehem and Golgotha, might we reflect on what He’s done for each of us.
While I was His enemy, He created an elaborate plan of redemption to save me.
While I was His enemy, He suffered and died for me.
While I was His enemy, He sought me, met me, and called me to be His own.
I am no longer stained. My past does not define me and it will not negate God’s ability to use my present or my future.
And in light of the knowledge that Christ’s sacrifice was enough to close the chasm between my wickedness and His holiness, I know He transforms the worst of these…
Because I am the worst of these.
And that, my friends, is a beautiful thing because not a single one of us is beyond His love, His forgiveness, His care, or His healing.
Find your fight – DS