“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Less honorable need abundant honor

...And those members of the body which we think are less honorable, on those we
bestow abundant honor. (1 Corinthians 12: 23)

So, a man with mental retardation lives for 60 years. He gets up in the morning, goes to a job, comes home, and spends time with friends or family, and goes to bed. This scenario is somehow different from people without mental retardation who get up, perhaps go to a better job by comparison (more responsibility, more money, etc.) come home to family or friends and go to bed. How is the life of the person who is a waitress or a mechanic or a teacher or a professor or a doctor different? Is the difference based upon how much money they make or their contribution to others? Distinctions are artificial.

So we react when "stay at home mothers" are regarded as less than working mothers. Then we decry the effect on children of poor parenting. If some salary figure is our criteria for life well lived, stay at home mothers are criticized. If well adjusted children are our criteria, then working mothers are criticized. The critieria we set will determine whether we are successful in the evaluation. But I must look critically at those inside and outside of the group I am evaluating if I am being honest. For example, the need to be served might be a criteria to elevate someone to inclusion (special honor) not only a reason to exclude.

Self-sufficiency, the Bible would imply, causes people to not trust in God, to think they don't need God. Yet how do we convince self-sufficient people that they need God? Perhaps we put them in situations where their presumed self-sufficiency is inadequate. Put them in situations where they are once again forced to trust in God and not in their wealth (for example). People in need, people who need to be served have the potential on many levels to teach us about faith. Those we think are less honorable might actually be worthy of honor for a variety of reasons.

1) through their own faith
2)through the way they cause others to try to reconcile disability and faith theologically and philosophically
3) through the service they demand (causing one to decide whether or not he
will serve God)
4) what are the essential elements of being human or being made in the Image of God
5) what is is that makes a life valuable or well lived
6) why should I or my life be considered more valuable than that of a person with a disability
7) God's soverignity
8) support within/among the Body of Christ

The ability to teach lessons about faith might require special honor.

So the giving of honor might be less an artifact of our simply being obedient (although that is sufficient reason) but might actually be due to people if we use the correct criteria to do the evaluation. In thinking about having honor or giving honor, we might define honor in the following ways (the first five definitions from Webster's Third New International Dictionary, 1966):

1. good name or public esteem
- so people may have no good name or receive no public esteem, but we would give it to them
- we give them a good name through our social capital
- we recognize their contributions such that they receive public esteem

2. a special prerogative
- so we give them special prerogatives in overlooking social skill differences in the same manner we would overlook the social errors of our loved ones
- we facilitate the opportunity to provide honor by giving the opportunities to make decisions about their own lives, rather than approaching with a we know best attitude

3. person of superior standing or importance
- we begin by recognizing as a person as having equal standing and importance
- recognizing strengths we may begin to see superior standing
- through relationships we may begin to see importance

4. one that is of intrinsic value
-we honor by fighting for the disabled person's intrinsic value, that is, value that is not determined by ability levels, etc.
-we honor by having a realistic picture of our own value, intrinsic or otherwise

5. an evidence or symbol of distinction
-we honor by giving the same symbols of distinction to those who are disabled that we would give to anyone
-we honor when relationships with persons with disabilities are no longer a symbol of distinction

Our society decides about what it will choose to honor and then honors it. We honor physical appearance and athletic or other abilities. The Bible calls upon us to think differently about what honor means. One distinction of being a Christian is that within the Body of Christ, we reject the worlds criteria for honor, and honor whom we choose to honor. Paul chides us to give special honor to those whom we would typically think are less honorable.

Perhaps there are things worthy of honor if we would see people through God's eyes, using God's evaluative criteria. Perhaps we are to treat those we think are less honorable with abundant or special honor because in the deliverance of that honor we will begin to see the honor we should have been giving but missed in the first place.


1 comment:

Mark said...

Paul reminds us, in the passage you quote, that, in God's eyes, there are not gifts that are more or less honorable, to His service. The pastor may be a brilliant student of the Word, an excellent teacher and an inspiring speaker. Does that make his contribution to the Church body more valuable than the middle school girl who stays for an extra service to help out with the pre-schoolers, or the guy directing traffic in the parking lot, the greeters at the entrance to the sanctuary, the servers of coffee and donuts and the brave souls who clean the men's room (Have you ever been in there after third service?)?

Jeff, you correctly point out, that that a strong desire for self-sufficiency in our day to day lives creates in us a kind of functional atheisim. At least, the operational idea that I'm ok with this, for now; I'll call you if I need you, big Guy. That doesn't work when things get rough. As the saying goes,"There are no atheists in foxholes."

Those in our communities with developmental disabilities and abundant faith confound the deniers because the athiest cannot understand how anyone, much less someone with profound disabilities, reacts with anything less than rage against the capricious will of a God that allows this sort of thing to occur.

When a man who has suffered a traumatic, devastating brain injury,responds to the athiest's challenge with a powerful explanation of the reasons for his faith (1 Ptr, 3:15)God is glorified by the simple explanation offered for this man's faith and the inability of the denier to refute it.

The believer is built up by this testimony because it supports and amplifies his/her own faith, which at times may be more shakey that the man with the brain injury.

One day we will understand God's will perfectly (1 Cor. 13:12. Until then, it may help if we wrestle with the idea of the tremendous gulf God covered in becoming human, as Jesus, bridging the gap between God and humanity. The distance He traveled, lowering himself, to become human, makes insignificant the trivial developmental differences between the most and least gifted among ourselves.