Thursday, October 22, 2015

In the Strength You Have

“The angel of the LORD came down and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abierzrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. When the angel of the LORD appeared to Gideon, he said, ‘The LORD is with you, mighty warrior.’”  – Judges 6:11-12

At the Association for a More Just Society where I work we’re exhorted to be “brave Christians” and to “love fearlessly,” with an active love. This ignites me but it also scares me a little because it’s hard to think of myself as valiant. If the angel of the LORD came down he’d know all the times I didn’t speak up when I should have; he’d know I climbed to the top of that cliff by the river and just stood and watched while everyone else dove in.

I get excited about justice in theory, but too often I’d rather thresh my wheat in a winepress where it’s safer, where I can hide my work until it’s finished and no one will come to challenge me, to threaten, to rob, or to steal.

“‘Pardon me, my lord,’ Gideon replied, ‘but if the LORD is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.’” – Judges 6:13

“You have to know something about Honduras,” my ten-year-old host brother tells me, “Don’t go out after dark. Don’t talk on your phone in the street. Don’t stop to count your money. Just keep walking.”

He and his brother watch television with passive curiosity as it shows another murder in the streets. The camera pans in close. Blood flows from the drug-runner’s hair onto the pavement as police circle around him. He was only a boy.

This doesn’t make sense to me. It seems like a twisted accident that I was born in health and safety that so many can only dream about. At night I hear the lusty voices of church members singing to Him who is “all-powerful, great, and majestic” and I wonder if He is there with them, and if so, why some of their children go to bed hungry.

The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” – Judges 6:14

I forget how God works: that on earth his hands and feet and hearts and mouths are called to knit themselves together and to act.

I’m not here to save the world, I say, and sometimes smugly, because I perceive that condescending zeal in others. But, why am I here, then, if not to use what strength I have? Why am I here if not because I felt sent? Every day I read reports of corruption in Honduras’ Education System, Security System, Property Institute, and if my small notations and translations help to shake that it is good that I am here.

I have no delusions of being a savior; in fact, I am painfully aware of the harmfulness of that mindset. But servants, too, can be sent, in what strength they have.

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel?” My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”  – Judges 6:15

Why choose me to do anything when better choices exist? There will always be others who are quicker and smarter than I. They will speak better Spanish, write better, and faster; they will be funnier, even, and know how to cook. Why do anything, then, if someone else could do it better?

Because others don’t do it and it needs to be done. This is how I found myself unexpectedly leading worship, writing editorials, teaching English. Skill matters, of course, but not nearly as much as willingness.

The LORD answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites together.”  – Judges 6:16

We ask why injustice happens in this world and the answer isn’t an answer but a command – Go.

The least of us will lead the march, and the LORD will be with us, behind us, before us. And we march on with a promise – that it is justice that wins in the end. 

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