Lent, Day 21: About worth, and justice.

Today’s reading: Mark 6:1-13

This has been one of those “puzzle pieces” days, when seemingly unconnected information surfs across my laptop screen… and when I sit down to think about the day’s scripture reading, suddenly the random pieces start joining together and shaping themselves into an unexpected image.

First, this morning, Dr. Brene Brown updated her blog with information about the release of a new lecture dvd titled “The Hustle for Worthiness,” which caught my attention right away because my “one little word” for 2010 is WORTH. Huge, huge topic for me personally, with lots of work to do: about writing, about weight, about personal care, about using my education, about following my calling, about parenting, about art. But also about treating others as worthy–those closest to me, as well as those I may never meet and whose lives are totally unlike mine.

Then, this afternoon, a pastor friend from seminary shared a link on Facebook to a story about a popular ultra-conservative political commentator who suggested that people should leave their churches if those churches claim to do “social justice,” because (in his opinion) “social justice” equals Communism and/or Nazi-ism, and/or other bad, scary, horrible things that are out to get us and that we should all be going after with burning torches and battering rams. (Okay, that last part was my paraphrase. 😉 )

It didn’t occur to me that those two pieces of new information–a discussion of worth and value, and the act and the fear of “social justice”–were related to each other, until I read today’s scripture. In it, Jesus himself (did you get that? Jesus himself?) was “a prophet without honor” in his own hometown–someone whose worth was undervalued by those who ought to have known and loved him best. And a few verses later, in sending out his apostles, Jesus warned them that their worth, too, would be undervalued in some of the places they would visit. And he told them how to respond: “If any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.” (v. 11)

I’ve always read that passage–about “shaking off the dust”–and automatically placed myself in the role of the apostles, sent out with a message and a mission, and ready to encounter cold shoulders, opposition, even persecution.

But I wonder now if that’s a presumptuous way of thinking. What if the lesson of Jesus’ warning also works the other way around? What if we aren’t just the apostles, but also those who are in danger of denying the messengers and missing out on their message because we can’t see their worth? Certainly we are not the world’s only called ones, the only sent ones, the only valued ones. What if, without knowing it, we’ve dishonored the Prophet himself in our midst–we who should know and love him best? And what if we are the ones left in the dust for our unwillingness to serve the needs and hear the stories of other children and called ones of God?

I should probably say, in all honesty, I am not a big fan of politics. I don’t like choosing sides, I don’t like hate-mongering and mocking and mud-slinging, in either direction. My friends and family range all over the conservative-to-liberal spectrum… and thanks be to God for that! What they have in common is a love of God and sincere desire to see people come to God, and to live lives that are honoring and honorable. I’m not naive enough to think that there is one single or easy solution to the social justice issues that face our nation and our world.

What I believe to be true, though, is that God values all people–and that God calls us to value all people. I’m resisting the urge here to jump all around in Mark’s gospel, recounting stories of hungry people fed; the clean and unclean; an outcast Greek woman; who is “the greatest”; little children welcomed; rich young men sent away. (All in good time! We’re only halfway through Lent! 🙂 ) But it seems to me that if feeding people and putting others ahead of ourselves and welcoming strangers and lifting up women and children are something “scary” like “social justice,” then we are doing exactly what Jesus would be doing, by seeing the worth that is in every single person.

This topic isn’t over for me, personally. It’s not an easy subject in our nation, and it’s not an easy subject for me; it does push my buttons of fear and self-doubt. But I have been challenged today: if I believe that my own sense of self-worth is important and worth developing, then I must also believe that the worth of all people is equally important and worth participating in.

God,
help me to express the message of
how deeply you value all your children.
Thank you
that I am one of them.

One thought on “Lent, Day 21: About worth, and justice.

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