Murder and Human Worth

Well, I had a first today. I served as a witness in a murder trial. 

I promise I’m not making these things up. 

I did not play a major role in the trial. Just came in and confirmed it was me in the 911 recording and then explained again what I had seen. Total of five minutes tops. The cross-examination was one question. (As an avid reader of John Grisham, I found it pretty amazing to be “cross-examined”.)

As thrilling (or rather, nerve-wracking) experience as it was, it was also very sad. Six years ago our neighbor’s nephew was shot when he was walking home from work. It has taken SIX YEARS for this to go to trial. And his parents and relatives are still deeply mourning his death. I pray that the trial ends with justice and closure for all those who are still mourning. 

As I was walking out of the courthouse I was pondering human worth. This trial is a big example of how we place worth on people. Someone’s life is taken. The suspect is taken into custody. Witnesses come forward. The entire bulky justice system sets itself into motion to ensure that justice is served. Time, money, resources, all set in motion to say, this person’s life had worth and we require justice because it was ended wrongfully. 

And then, at the same time, the trial took SIX YEARS to happen! Which sends a totally different message. This is important, but maybe not THAT important. 

We do this with children. We have CHILD SERVICES that are present to ensure that children are not being abused or neglected. Entire bureaucracies devoted to the safe-guarding of children. We have NICU units in our hospitals, devoted to saving the life of prematurely born babies and other infants suffering any kind of malady. All declaring that children have WORTH. Time, money and all manner of resources devoted to showing worth.

And then, at the same time, we’ve decided that if a child is in the womb, the mother can decide that the child doesn’t have worth at all and simply abort it. Not THAT important after all. 

We do it with our elderly. Though, as I sit here, I can’t think of too many ways that we show our elderly their worth. Maybe we just talk about our elders having worth. Our subpar nursing homes, inefficient Medicare and tiny social security payments don’t show a lot of worth to our elderly. But we TALK about them having worth. 

It’s no wonder that we are so confused about self-worth. 

Our social structures give us very mixed messages about our worth. And our overall culture does the same. We idolize people in entertainment who look a “certain” way. (Whichever way happens to be popular at the moment.) And the problem is, that “certain” way is not how most people look. And then we compare ourselves to this touched-up, photo-shopped, made-up version of what we think is beautiful, we don’t look anything like it, and then we feel subpar. Not beautiful. And in our society, not-beautiful equals lesser importance. 

So, how do we step out of this confusing mess of mixed messages that we live in? 

Well, I’m going to point you back to the Bible. Again. Cause it’s the only thing we have that speaks truth. What does God say about you? 

You are Loved by God John 3:16

You are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus Ephesians 2:10

You are Created in God’s Image Gen 1:27

You are Forgiven through the work of Jesus on the Cross Colossians 1:13-14

As a follower of Jesus You are Heirs of eternal life 1 John 5:13

As a follower of Jesus You are Blessed with all Spiritual Blessings Ephesians 1: 3-6

I could go on and on and on. All about how much worth you have. I would say that any place in our society and culture that declares to you your worth as a human being, you can thank God for those being there. And any place where you are being devalued, that is the Enemy, known by many names, whose only mission is to seek and destroy all that God has created. 

It’s late. I’ve had a really long day. But before I go to bed, I just wanted to let you know, You are Beautiful. You are loved. You have Great Worth. 

The Record Player

I have a record player in my head. Any time I am feeling down, or insecure, the record player starts playing. It’s a voice that goes over all my accomplishments. In high school you did this…When you were in college you did this…Remember that time you did that one thing? And all these things are the “good” things that I feel like I have done. Places where I have excelled. Things I have mastered. Memories of me being great. Basically a list of all my righteous deeds. 

The other day I was having an interesting conversation with someone about different religions and the main point that we landed on was “good works”. I was explaining that in Christianity, we don’t believe that our good works save us. The only thing that saves us is the work that Jesus did on the cross. His forgiveness of our sins. All the good deeds in the world won’t get us into heaven. Just the grace of God that is offered us through belief in Jesus. 

Now, I know these things. I’ve been taught these things for a long time. But that record player still exists. My list of good deeds makes me feel better about myself. Boosts my confidence, soothes my low self-esteem. Justifies my behavior. (Maybe I messed up here, but look, usually I’m a good person!)

Last night I heard the record player turn on, but instead of listening to the voice, reliving all the good memories, I stepped back a pace, and questioned why this record player even existed? Why do I do this? 

I have been trying to take these thoughts captive today. Bring them to a halt. All those good things do nothing to give you worth. Your worth comes from being loved by Jesus. He is one that has done all the work, not you. 

This last Sunday I watched the first episode of the second season of THE CHOSEN. If you have not watched season 1, I highly, highly, highly, recommend it. You can get The Chosen App, free, in your app store and see all the episodes free. Season 2 is just starting to come out. 

Something that really stood out to me was the foreignness of Jesus. He said and did things that the disciples were not expecting, took them off guard, had them constantly guessing what was going to happen next. This stood out to me because I feel like now, so many years later, we think we have Jesus figured out. We have the scriptures to read, we know the stories, we have developed elaborate traditions around the life and work of Jesus. He fits very comfortably inside a beautiful box. We are very comfortable with the Jesus that exists in our heads. And that comfortableness makes us complacent, stuck in our ruts. 

Watching The Chosen brought home to me that I don’t have Jesus all figured out. He is his own person, God in fact, and I do not understand all of his ways, nor do I perfectly walk in all of his ways. And I feel empathy with the disciples. They didn’t get it right away. In fact, even after three years of walking with Jesus, (in person!) they still messed up sometimes. And my heart feels full of thankfulness at the grace Jesus gave the disciples and that he gives me, now. Yes, I’ve been walking with him, most of my life, but I still sometimes completely miss the point. My record player turns on and I cling to my own good works, completely forgetting that I am saved by Grace, Jesus’ work on the cross, His Forgiveness. My worth comes, not from being a “good” person, but from being a child of God. 

Always Failing at Something

Do you have that One Thing that is always ready to jump out of the corner and condemn you? Like, you’re walking along, thinking that you are actually an Ok human being. You are handling life pretty good. In fact, you might even be doing well. And then that One Thing jumps out with it’s jeering face and says, Oh yeah? What about this??? And you hang your head in shame. Oh yeah. I forgot about that. I guess I’m not really doing that great. 

For me it tends to be a messy house. I’ll be assessing how the day is going. Ok, lets see. We homeschooled today, that went well. I’ve cooked all the meals. Had some good quality time reading aloud to the kids. I made a lunch for my husband. I’ve eaten healthy today. Got in my workout. Had my devotions. Yep. I’m doing ok. Then here comes the voice. 

Oh yeah? Have you looked at your house?? It’s a mess! You’re behind with the laundry! Those pots have been “soaking” for a really long time. The kids can’t find anything on their school shelf, it’s such a cluttered mess. We won’t even bring up subjects like mopping and dusting! 

And my little ego deflates. Oh yeah. I actually kinda suck. 

Of course, this is a glimpse into just how performance-oriented my self-esteem is. If I am doing good things then I must be good and have worth. If I am failing in any area then I must be bad. Not really worthy at all. 

And unfortunately, there is always something or some area where I am failing. And this means that my default attitude towards myself tends to be rather negative. 

It makes me think about my spiritual walk. Jesus is all about grace. But my default position, when I think about God, is that he is all about law. If you fail these commandments, this is the list of punishments you will get. If you aren’t careful, you will be burned up in God’s wrath. 

I have heard the sermons, I’ve read the scriptures. I know, in my head, that I am forgiven. That Jesus’ goodness covers over all my badness and cancels it out. I know that the Holy Spirit is living inside of me, slowly changing my heart to be more like Jesus. I know that he sees me through eyes of love and grace. But I still wrestle. My default is still law and punishment. Condemnation. 

I’m a work in progress. I have to constantly remind myself that I am loved, forgiven, a daughter of the King. 

So, today, as my brain started beating me up about what a horrible housekeeper I am, I tried to exercise some grace. Yes. The house is rather messy right now. So what? There’s a lot of good reasons why it’s in that state. Is the world going to end if it doesn’t get cleaned today? Nope. Does a messy house mean I am a horrible person? Not really. Are you ever going to get your house clean? Sure, I’m planning on getting it done this weekend! Ok. Then you are fine. You have permission to ignore the mean voice whispering in your ear. 

Romans 3: 20-24

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.