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

Monday, August 10, 2009

Godly Sorrow

Kathi and I just returned from a trip to Ukraine and Ethiopia. While in Ethiopia, I was asked to do a morning devotional for the team I was a part of. I wondered about how to integrate the things we had been experiencing there. The poverty is overwhelming to see. As I looked around I saw a section in the back of the Bible that addresses or offers verses related to how someone might be feeling. Sorrow was one of the listings with the verse, 2 Corinthians 7:8-11. Verses 10 and 11 jumped out at me in particular. "Godly sorrow brings repentance" and then later, "See what this Godly sorrow has produced in you; what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done."

As I reflected on these things, I noted that
1. My time in Ethiopia has brought out a kind of Godly sorrow when I see the poverty and know my wealth.
2. It brings out a kind of repentance in a Luke 12:48 (to whom much is given much is expected) kind of way.
3. Looking at verse 11, Godly sorrow brings about
-earnestness - honesty with myself and others
-eagerness to examine myself - What can I do? How can I help? How do I contribute to the bad?
-indignation - what I see should not be
-alarm - something must be done immediately
-longing - for a different reality for people, that God's kingdom would come
-concern - for people who have no work, little means for livelihood, a weak or poor government, no safety net
- a desire to see justice done - in the lives of the people, poor and disabled who I met in Ethiopia.

This section of scripture almost strikes me as a recipe for integrating such a mission experience as one works through each of the aspects of the verses, ending with a readiness to see justice done. It is almost as if there are steps in a process that brings us to a point where the Godly sorrow late led to repentance, now takes us to the place where we are prepared to to what is necessary, to make the sacrifices, to see justice done when perhaps prior to embracing the Godly sorrow, we had not humbled ourselves to the point of wanting to see justice done. Before we weren't ready, but now we are.

The Christian church needs to work through this process in regard to persons with disabilities. It begins with repentance. It was amazing that I was sharing Wolfensberger's wounds with a group of pastors in Assela, Ethiopia. When I came to wound 16 (I believe) about exclusion from higher order thinking including church and religion, I commented that the Christian church was guilty of all of the wounds. Of course as I was speaking, my words were being translated. I made the comment, "May God forgive us" in reference to the Church's complicity. As I turned back to the screen, the entire group of about 100 pastors all said in unison in their language, "MAY GOD FORGIVE US!" It was very powerful, but perhaps the first time that when I shared this information, the audience, pastors in particular, responded in such a way. Too often the response is "It is not as bad as you think." Praise God for the Ethiopian pastors who simply responded with a statement of repentance which has to be the point of beginning. No wonder that there has not been earnestness, indignation, alarm, longing, concern and a desire to see justice done in the church toward persons with disabilities. There has yet to be repentance.

I pray that the church will wake up in Godly sorrow in the same way that the Corinthians woke up to Paul's confrontation in the letter that this section of scripture refers to.



ArtworkByRuth said...

I love this post, I love the direction given on what to do with the sorrow we feel when we see and experience the injustices in this world!
Since we adopted children with disabilities from Ukraine twice, I am curious as to the Church's response to your visit.

Jeff McNair said...

Kathi and I were involved with a wonderful church in the city of Lutsk called the Fimiam church. They have actually developed a rehab center for persons with disabilities under the auspices of the church. They are doing great things! The church is also very open to people with various disabilities. They have camp outreach programs to families, and the leaders of the ministry Serga and Natasha are amazing. They are quickly at the beside of mothers who give birth to a child with a disability, or people who have developed a disability due to life circumstances. They are involved in developing a model for the church in this area of the world.

Unknown said...

First off I must say that I myself am not a christian, but I believe what you did out there, and to show God's love and give a wake up call to the pastor's out there was very enlighting and wonderful. I believe that we as a people should come together as best as we can and help those in need. I think we all get so wrapped up in our own world we forget there are those out there who do not even have food to eat, and we become pickey eaters who wont eat something if we do not like the "smell", I being that person. It made me greatful for what I had, but also made me wonder as a single mother what I could possibly do to help those who need it most. I have great respect for you and hope the church and its pastors there come to see what you do. --Ariel

Matt said...

I to believe that the church needs to take responsibility for how they have treated the disabled. The church preaches repentance, and they must now practice what they preach. The church must pray and ask for forgiveness because of the way they have mistreated the disabled and impaired. They church ask us to treat others with respect and how we would like to be treated, but when it comes to the disabled the church has turned a blind eye and not given the same respect they are asking their members to do. While the church may do a lot of good for the poor, they do not cater to the mentally ill, or spend the same amount of time educating, and helping these people. Some of the church’s offering should be spent to help educate the mentally ill of God’s teaching, and to help facilities that are caring for these people. Many of these facilities do not have enough workers, or money to keep up with these peoples needs. Volunteers should be spending time with the mentally ill in these facilities, and also helping keep the buildings up to code. But before any of this can happen the church must first admit to the error of their ways and ask for pardon, only then will the church be able to help all of God’s children.