In preparation for this Easter, I’ve found myself drawn to the figure of Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane…in particular, the story of how he pulled out his sword in defense of Jesus at the time of His arrest by the authorities, despite the presence of overwhelming force.
Even though what Peter did was wrong…Jesus immediately rebuked Peter and cleaned up the mess he caused by healing the severed ear of Malchus (the servant of the High Priest)…I appreciate and identify with Peter’s impulse to defend Jesus and what He represents. I suspect…like Peter…that I’ve been reacting to events unfolding before me from a spirit of mixed motives and a lack of understanding of how to respond to the progression of God’s plans with an equal measure of grace and truth.
I’m especially vulnerable to the sin of not controlling my tongue. I’m pretty passionate about the stuff I believe in and the work that I do. At times, I’ve said some things online that were pretty cynical…especially comments of a political nature. The truth be told, I think I’ve completely disqualified myself to ever serve as chaplain of any Cleveland-based sports team…at least until the current generation of players and team officials retires or moves on to another position. The problem is that my harsh words and criticism do a lousy job of winning folks over to Jesus or building a more loving society. The stuff I’ve said definitely led to strained relationships with some folks on our ministry team and detracted from my ability to be an effective leader of the team. I ask for their forgiveness, as well the forgiveness of others I’ve offended…but most of all, Christ’s forgiveness.
As the events of the past few years have unfolded, I’ve responded all too often from a spirit of self-interest or excessive pride. I want to avoid persecution for being a follower of Christ…something that I strongly expect is coming to America in the very near future. I want to continue to practice medicine as I see fit. I want to be on the winning side…and it doesn’t feel at all like those of us who seek to live by the principles espoused in Scripture are winning the war being waged for our culture by any means. At times, I have to confess that my anger at changes unfolding in society has had less to do with the harm that will come to others but stemmed from ego…a “this isn’t going to happen on my watch” mentality. I’m definitely guilty of placing my faith in political leaders and solutions (and being sorely disappointed) instead of placing my trust in Jesus and His plans.
I’ve been guilty of insensitivity. I was reminded of this by a pastor friend…wheenver he would talk about abortion from the pulpit, he was very aware that there was likely at least one woman (and probably more) who had chosen to abort a pregnancy attending the worship service. I’ve frequently wondered whether my girls are coming away with the wrong impression of me…and Christianity from the comments I make during dinner when the evening news is on in the background. I know that stuff I’ve posted online has been insensitive…and has probably driven others away.
I’ve been guilty of living a dual identity…I’ve been unwilling to (at times) submit my orientation as a physician or an adherent to traditional values to my primary identity/orientation as a follower of Christ. For all of this, I ask forgiveness.
At the same time, I’m very much struggling going forward with what it means to be Christian when having Christian values is decidedly uncool. I’m convinced it’s critically important that those of us who have gifts, talents or experience as communicators…especially those of us in the neurosciences…be willing to stand up publicly for our values and beliefs. Because of who I am in Christ and because of my life experiences as a physician and neuroscientist, I can’t in good conscience stay silent when society moves in the direction of devaluing the sanctity of life, minimizing the importance of the God-given roles established for mothers and fathers, and placing greater importance upon the right to sexual gratification without consequence than the responsibilities adults have to consider the needs of the children in their care or the freedom we have as Americans to pursue worship as a way of life.
I’ve been very much struggling to find the right “tone” for communicating effectively in my primary role as Christ-follower, taking into account the knowledge and life experiences God has given me.
I’ve come to understand that I can’t balance grace and truth, but only the Holy Spirit within me can do that. I know I’ll make mistakes going forward,but thanks to what Jesus did for all of us 1980 years ago today, I know I’ll be forgiven.
I’d appreciate your prayers going forward this Easter. That I’d be able to conduct myself worthy in my role as a leader with an organization like Key Ministry. That the Holy Spirit would help me in controlling my tongue and making me sensitive when my words might turn others away from Jesus. That I would be fearless in professing the truths of Scripture in my words and actions, and help encourage others to do the same. And that I’d become more like Jesus in the year ahead.
Thanks! Sunday’s coming!