Department: Think About It
Several articles in this issue of JCN hit home with me. The article “Elder Abuse: Speak Out for Justice” by Jenna Olson and Barbara Hoglund (pp. 14-21) touches a personal nerve. My mother lives in a retirement community but is alone in her apartment. She is barraged by appeals for money. She has been the victim of financial abuse from someone she trusted. She struggles to understand prescribed medications. I carefully watch how staff members treat residents. I am grateful that Tsai-Feng Lee and Lifen Wu's findings with Taiwanese elderly apply perfectly to mom as God is a rich part of her life (God Changed Their Lives: The Value of Religion in the Elderly, pp. 36-39).
Pamala McCarver hits another personal nerve in her story of “Responding to God's Call” (pp. E1–E3). There have been stretches in my life where I gave much time and energy to help people in need, took women and their children into my home, and served until I was spent. I admire Pamala's ability to give her resources to a family in need; I pray about my (un?)willingness to respond to God's callings. I resonant with the article “Creating Space for the Mentally Ill in the Faith Community” by Jeffry Brinkley and Teri Kau (pp. 52-56) as mentally ill and homeless persons are a significant part of my church family. Sadly, I know people who won't come to my church, in part, because of the mentally ill who attend. And I know people with chronic illness who fight depression. I pray Harold Koenig's research “Depression in Chronic Illness: Does Religion Help?” (pp. 40-46) demonstrates effective help for the chronically ill.
Something these articles bring into focus is that we live in a perilous world where elders are abused, little kids get cancer, people are sick and depressed, and the mentally ill are ignored. That world is overwhelming to me. At the same time the authors point to God's goodness and call to his people to help make the world right. Olson and Hoglund spotlight Proverbs 31:8-9, which calls God's people to “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy” (NIV). How do we have the compassion much less the energy to do such exhausting work?
Recently I revisited the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus' teaching on God's standards for living. I discovered something in the beatitudes or “blessed sayings” of Matthew 5—these declarations offer profound insight into how we can live rightly and bring justice to others.
Jesus says blessed are the poor in spirit, who mourn, are meek, who hunger for righteousness; the merciful, the pure, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. Such people realize God's holiness and power in contrast to themselves. They recognize their desperate need for God; they know they are spiritually poor and grieve over wrongdoing; they are not proud or rebellious but allow God to tell them what to do; they strive to be in right relationship with God and others; they recognize how much God has forgiven them and always forgive and show mercy even when treated wrongly; they know true peace because they are reconciled to God and they seek peace with and for others; they are happy if people make fun of their beliefs or if they lose opportunities because they belong to Christ.
For these kinds of people, theirs is the kingdom of heaven! They will be comforted, inherit the earth, be filled, shown mercy, see and know God, be called the sons of God; theirs is the kingdom of heaven! They are salt that thwarts corruption; they are light in a dark world. Wow, what a life! Jesus also said those who believe in him receive the gift of the Holy Spirit and are made new (John 14:16; Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 5:17). As we put God first, study the Bible, and obey his directives, we are empowered through God's Spirit to do his work in the world.
God will provide hope. He will give me wisdom and strength to “Speak out for justice!” My part is to focus on him.