Tuesday, March 8, 2011

As I watch the news . . .

I haven't been one to watch the news or read newspapers very often over the years, but I have been drawn to news stories about what is going on in the Middle East. I see people sick and tired of being arrested without cause, held without representation, and tortured without any chance to challenge the deprivation of liberty and dignity. I have heard story after story of locking people up without due process of law. They are sick of it in Libya, in Egypt, and in other countries over there.

And, then I turn around and read the paper here, read the new laws passed by our legislature in Tennessee, and look at the news, and I see legislatures passing laws to deny due process rights among our citizens. People in the Mideast are dying to gain what we have but don't value.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

"I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief"

This is what the father of the demon-possessed boy says to Jesus as he seeks healing for his son. The scriptures tell us that the boy would be thrown down on the ground by the demon, foaming at the mouth, really much like a grand mal seizure, again and again.

The father, desperate for help, has brought his son to Jesus' disciples for help, but they can do nothing. The boy's torment, and his father's suffering, continues.

And, Jesus looks at his disciples saying, "This kind can only be cast out by fasting and prayer." Obviously, Jesus was not going to go away for fasting and prayer and then come back whenever to the man and his son. He was ready to offer help right then and there. I guess Jesus' point to his disciples was that he had prepared himself for this battle and they hadn't.

And, when Jesus says "all things are possible for the one who believes," the man cries out: "I believe, help thou my unbelief!" And, apparently that was plenty of faith as far as Jesus was concerned. In fact, that is a pretty fair response when you have been watching the suffering of one you love and no help has come though you have prayed like hell and though you have sought out everyone you know who might be able to help.

Jesus was looking for honest, human faith, not some out of body belief that wasn't tied to the real situation. And, this man expressed what was in his mind and heart as clearly as he could. "I believe, help thou my unbelief."

He believed because he couldn't give up loving his son. He didn't believe because he had prayed and done everything possible and everytime it brought no relief. Yes, he expressed things very well. "I believe, help thou my unbelief."

For anyone who has had a close friend or family member who just can't seem to get over a sickness or a destructive situation, this man is a patron saint. Because what can you do when you love, but your love doesn't ever seem to bring real change and help to the one you love? What are you supposed to do when your prayers never seem to bring any relief or help, when your hope is beaten down to the point that you stuggle to get back up and keep up the fight, even when the one you love seems to have given in or the one you love seems doomed by a sickness no one can resist or treat.

What can you do but try to bring that person before God and say: "I believe, help thou my unbelief." Because faith is part belief and part unbelief. Those people who seem to just believe without doubt or complaint, well . . . I'm not sure I believe them. Jesus seemed to have some honest struggle with his own destiny. "I pray that this cup might pass from me, but not my will but thy will be done."

But, many religious people would present the faithful life as if it has nothing to do with doubt and struggle and even bitter complaints to God at times. Of course, the Bible itself contains page after page of the faithful expressing doubts, complaints and even bitterness.

"I believe, help thou my unbelief," was good enough for Jesus and God.

*passage is in the Gospel of Mark 9:14-29