Saturday, July 10, 2010

Attitude Check

If you have not read the previous post (below), I urge you to first do so because I would like to clarify that post and the much earlier 2009 post entitled “The Veil of Ignorance”,... and I will do so in light of the following Scripture:

Luke 18:9  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

"Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'
But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'
I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
Although this passage clearly deals with self-righteousness, pride, a humble and broken spirit, etc., it should also serve as an alarm and “attitude check” for me and all who are interested in developing communities and nations? To what extent do we harbor the repugnant attitude of “I thank you, God, that you did not make me like these other poor wretches". (May I be forgiven and washed clean of every trace of any such attitude.)

In this same vein, today I had interesting conversations with Wesley (in California) and Anna (here in Kigali), both of whom know a great deal about speech pathology and the deaf community. I learn that many who are deaf are very committed and proud of “Deaf Culture”, which they are determined to defend and preserve. Some deaf couples hope to have deaf children. Devices and strategies intended to eliminate or remediate deafness are considered abhorrent.
So what is the correct attitude, acceptable to both God and man, as we come upon others who, for lack of better terms, are impoverished, struggling, "disabled", or otherwise somehow different. Well, we should certainly be “humble”. But what does that mean? Surely it must mean (among other things) that we never consider ourselves superior or of greater value than others. Implicit within that is one of Jesus' most unequivocally stated commands: “Do not judge others.” In truth, we are all impoverished,... we are all struggling,... and we are all different.

It might also mean that we readily recognize the personal dignity and value of every person. In sloppy (repugnant) thought and speech, I have occasionally misstated this as “granting another their personal dignity". Clearly, another's dignity is not for me to grant or deny. It is for me to properly recognize, or quite offensively fail to recognize.
Might I use this "humble insight" as a justification to do nothing for others who are struggling with great challenges and needs? May it never be! But this insight should greatly impact my attitude and my approach,... clearly recognizing my own poverty, that we are both (all) made in the image of God, and that any “service” must be a “coming alongside” driven by a love that honors, and not an arrogant qualitative judgment and false sense of superiority.