Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Abandoned? Never!

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.

                        Psalm 37.25

No Good Thing

Here’s the deal. If we live righteously before God and man, good things follow. Hang on a second. That’s not altogether correct. If we live righteously, every good thing God has for us follows. He ensures nothing gets overlooked. Psalm 84.11 insists, “No good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” Bad things happen to good people and good things to bad people. Only righteous people (not to be confused or categorized with self-righteous) receive every good thing, however. Bad things come their way, to be sure. Yet by virtue of their faith, the righteous can find goodness in the worst of their lot.

How is that? Romans 1.17 offers a succinct explanation: “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’” Righteous people trust God’s word from first to last. They grapple with fears and emotions like everyone else. Yet they perceive them differently. Facts and feelings are immaterial; they prove nothing. As Hebrews 11.1 stresses, when we live righteously by faith, we find substance in hope and proof in unseen evidence. Ergo, no crisis is so severe it won’t yield benefits, no outcome so final it comes to naught. When we believe this, God rewards our faith, enabling us to discern every good thing concealed in what often looks and feels ineffably bad.

Never—Not Once

“I’ve been around a long time,” David writes in Psalm 37, “and never—not once—have I seen the righteous abandoned.” How ironic of him to say this, because his songs are riddled with “where’s God” moments. Psalm 22, for example, begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”—the very words Jesus cries from the cross at his loneliest hour. Yet in the final analysis, David’s songs back up his claim. His feelings of dejection always give way to declarations of faith. So did Christ’s. His final utterance as a man is, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23.46) The situation is beyond His human ability to withstand and He places His entire trust in God. That’s why Paul says the gospel reveals righteousness by faith from first to last. And that’s why righteous people never find themselves truly abandoned: faith reaches God when no other options exist, when no mortal help can be found, when no one wants them around.

Children of Righteousness

David puts an intriguing addendum on his statement. Children of righteousness prosper. He strikes two chords in Psalm 37 that support his belief. The first immediately follows in verse 26: “They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.” Righteous people are givers. They know nothing they have came of their own doing and there’s always more where that came from. What they have may not be much, but as he says in verse 16, “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.” Faith taps into the endless supply of God’s blessings and believes no good thing will be withheld. But second, though often isolated, the righteous enjoy God’s protection. “The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.” (v11-12) Children of righteousness grow up in a healthy, secure environment. They’re blessed materially and emotionally.

Whether or not we have biological children, as people of faith, we all assume parental roles. We bear and rear children of righteousness, who learn from our example and listen closely to what we say. If we model belief and generosity to those who look up to us, they will follow suit. This is especially crucial for those of us in the GLBT community, which all too often exalts role models that promote cynicism and selfishness. We’ve been given an extraordinary opportunity to live righteously, to offer a better alternative to self-gratification and fear of rejection. We have experienced the joy of never being abandoned. We have seen the benefits of giving. We can’t abandon our own or withhold every good thing we can offer. Our Father does this for us. We must do it for them.

PFLAG's current "Stay Close" campaign speaks volumes to GLBT families and friends. It also carries a message to people of faith, reminding us to stay close to our "children."

(Tomorrow: At Midnight)

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