We live in a diverse community and world where inclusive love is always needed. If only our adversarial tendencies could be replaced by the spirit of advocacy reflected in Job 5:16, which reminds us that “the poor should have hope and injustice should shut its mouth!” This verse references those orphaned, alone and in need of compassion.
Walls of fear too often create strangers both far and near. Thomas Troeger addresses this fear in his song, “O, Praise the Gracious Power”:
“O, Praise the Gracious Power that tumbles walls of fear and gathers in one house of faith all strangers far and near:
O praise persistent truth that opens fisted minds, and eases from their anxious clutch the prejudice that blinds:
O praise inclusive love encircling every race, oblivious to gender, wealth, to social rank or place:
O, praise the word of faith that claims us as God’s own, a living temple built on Christ, our rock and cornerstone:
O, praise the tide of grace that laps at every shore with visions of a world at peace, no longer bled by war …”
Who are the orphans in our midst? Have we ever been or felt like an orphan? Who do we orphan? A woman came to me in a store who felt orphaned, alone, worthless and rejected. A pastor had just told her that she could overcome her mental illness if she had more faith. Her brain disorder became her fault — she was to blame! She knew I understood and could tell her the untruth of such harmful blaming. She needed to hear the healing words of God’s loving acceptance of her as she was. Don’t we all need less rejection and more acceptance?
My own adopted daughter, who lives in Anchorage, has experienced such blame many times. Her comment to me has been, “It is my faith in a loving God that keeps me going!”
She continues to struggle with homelessness, rejection and misunderstanding as she lives with her brain disorders of serious fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and mental illness. She continues to seek out a faith community for support both physically and spiritually, but if they start the blame game she moves on in search of acceptance. I am proud of her strength to reject blame and seek acceptance. Isn’t her wisdom applicable to all of us? When adversarial behavior prevails, there is pain. When advocacy and compassion prevail there is dignity and wholeness.
Who makes us uncomfortable? Who could benefit from our advocacy? How can we spend our energy “de-orphaning” people? There may be a member of our family, community or church who needs us to be their advocate. We can be that needed, caring, understanding, compassionate person. A caring presence is not someone with all the answers! Rather it is someone who conveys acceptance without layers of conditions!
Too often, we choose neglect as our solution to a situation we find hard to understand. When we frame things in an adversarial way, we lose the gift of advocacy, compassion and acceptance. This is a problem across the spectrum of society. Politicians, social agencies, churches, family members, employers and employees practice selectivity that neglects, categorizes, classifies and “orphans”. Rejection can lead to injustice.
It is very tempting to practice exclusion. Those who don’t pass our litmus test become our neglected orphans. Our fear of inclusive acceptance can take from us the blessings of inclusive love, acceptance and compassion.
May “injustice shut its mouth” as we open ourselves to inclusive love. Such love overcomes the many real or perceived differences we all possess.
• Rorem is a retired Evangelical Lutheran Church in America pastor living in Juneau.