Thursday, June 29, 2017

Can You be an Advocate and Still be a Christian?

There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death.  And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left.  Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

And they divided His garments and cast lots. And the people stood looking on. But even the rulers with them sneered, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if He is the Christ, the chosen of God.”
Luke 23: 32-35 NKJV

Lately, as I've been sitting in church and listening to sermons, or taking a walk and listening to a podcast, I have been bombarded by messages that make me question my purpose as an advocate for my daughter who has special needs.  
I've received the message that God wants us to put others before ourselves.
I've received the message that God wants us to LOVE His people (which includes everyone...even those I may not necessarily "like".)
I've received the message that, when I make the world about ME, I am taking my eyes off God.
Logically I started to question my motives in EVERYTHING.  
  • Is this about me?
  • Is this just about my kid?
  • Am I advocating out of FEAR or am I actually making the difference that GOD wants me to make?

Can I be honest? I was kind of hoping this would take a little bit off my plate. I would love an excuse to step back and not organize Rare Disease Day in the state of Nevada, or not feel like I'm supposed to be starting up some sort of Special Needs Ministry at our church. I would love a reason to NOT have to keep plugging away when I feel as if I'm getting nowhere.

I searched online, "What does the Bible say about being an advocate?"  

And here's what I found: 

Speak out for those who cannot speak,
for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
Proverbs 31: 8-9, NRSV

The root of the word for destitute in this passage is "to pass away, vanish."  

That certainly describes what can happen to those with special needs, right? My daughter has a speech impediment and for many years was completely incoherent to those who didn't know her well. I was frustrated for her and knew that we, her parents, needed to help her learn to advocate for herself as well as BE her advocate until she was able to do so.  

Thankfully, we ALL have our own advocate in the ultimate battle we fight...our struggle for eternal life: 
My dear children, I am writing this to you 
so that you will not sin. 
But if anybody does sin, 
we have an advocate with the Father--
Jesus Christ the Righteous One 
1 John 2:1, NIV

Okay, so, I can't LEGITIMATELY say that I can't be an advocate. God DOES tell us to be the voice of the voiceless and to defend those who are poor and needy.

He also reminds us that the ULTIMATE ADVOCATE, Jesus, is OUR intercessor, so we need not worry about our salvation. HE'S GOT OUR BACK.

I think the MOST important thing to remember is that we need to advocate while ALSO demonstrating our faith...actually, we can use our advocacy as our testimony when we advocate in LOVE and not in ANGER.

But how do we do that? Because I know that many of us have to struggle to control our emotions when we are in the midst of advocacy.

We must look to the ULTIMATE advocate, Jesus Christ, and watch how HE behaved as an advocate.

Yes, there were times where he was angry (He overturned the tables in the temple, right? John 2:14-16). It was a scenario that drove Jesus to a boiling point because people were trying to SELL MARKET eternal life and holiness...Yes, Jesus was furious because these people were risking EVERYONE'S salvation through their actions.

Let's turn to his greatest act of advocacy though. How did he respond while he was hanging on the cross dying for us so that he could intercede and accept OUR damnation as his own?

What did he say of his accusers? What did he say the GOVERNMENT? What did he say of the KING?

Forgive them...they don't know what they are doing.
  • We won't always win.  
  • Our loved ones with disabilities and diseases won't always get the treatment they are "supposed" to.
  • The government can't save us.  
So, how will we respond as we are being oppressed, or harmed, or denied something that we believe to be an unalienable right of ours?
  • Do we hate our opposition?
  • Do we spew venomous words at them?
  • Do we launch social media smear campaigns against people and urge others to do so as well?
Or do we respond as Jesus did and say, "God didn't take my cup from me as I had hoped...clearly this is not my will but His...Forgive them, Father...they know not what they are doing."

Pray:  Father God, I don't always understand your ways, but I know that your ways are better than mine. Help me to draw on Jesus's example when I am placed in a position where you have called me to be an advocate. Help me to see my opposition as YOU see them...souls that you long to have saved. Help me to be a witness for your love, grace, and mercy when I am advocating for myself or others. Amen. 

~Tammie Hefty