I have a friend who is one of the most amazing teachers I have ever met. Now retirement age, she has worked all her life in the public school system, and touched literally thousands of lives. Unbeknownst to everyone, she daily prayed specifically for each child entrusted to her care. She saw her children through God’s eyes, and brought out the best in them because she believed and expected the best. Her unconditional love – the love of Christ – created an environment where every single child, regardless of economic background or race, flourished. Not surprisingly, she was named Teacher of the Year more than once.
Close to the end of the school year, there was a week set aside for Teacher Appreciation, where parents and children had the opportunity to acknowledge and thank the teachers for their hard work. While most of us parents had special surprises planned over the course of the week, I noticed one mother who not only did not participate, but went out of her way to ignore my friend, yet overly honored a part-time reading teacher. The reason was so shocking to me that I was instantly nauseous, simultaneously feeling the blood drain from my body. It was because my friend was Black. This mother was White.
Immediately, I was angry, outraged – and so hurt that I was crying. My friend was not. In fact, she was consoling me. I was ready to meet this woman in the parking lot and straighten her out – this wasn’t right! Instead, my friend straightened me out, and gave me a lesson God has continued to teach me on multiple levels.
The world is full of injustices and man’s inhumanity to man. It has been like this since Adam, and will continue until God brings the new heaven and earth. While I could not get beyond this demonstration of cruelty, my friend, who had lived with prejudice all her life, knew the secret … “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Ro 3:10) She was seeing through God’s eyes that when we defend ourselves, we are making a statement that we are right and innocent. The hard truth is that not one of us can honestly look at ourselves and proclaim our goodness, as we all have secret places in our hearts filled with carnality, selfishness, pride, lust, etc. We have NO defense, and NO righteousness apart from Jesus. Then, it is about HIS Righteousness.
So, does this mean we are not supposed to take a stand for what we know is morally right? God gave us the law so we could know those boundaries, and He created us with a deep sense of rightness and wrongness. Our hearts should break for what breaks His heart.
Unfortunately, I have discovered that my intense response to injustice – whether for myself or someone else – is prompted more by the personal pain of being wronged (that is how I so quickly identify), than prompted by God. Standing up for others permits me the do-over I can never have for myself. And a righteous cause actually enables me to hide this motive from myself. The reality is, I cannot be God’s instrument for the cause if my motivation is personal; pain is masquerading as God’s voice, and I can’t even tell the difference.
My friend knew the difference: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength”. (Is 30:15) Because Jesus was fully her Righteousness, Trust and Strength, she was not compelled to take action, but was free to wait on Him for instruction. She demonstrated that His words and actions have a very different, beautifully loving flavor … namely forgiving what is truly unforgivable, while never compromising what is right in His eyes.
I pray I can be like that when I grow up.