Two news stories in the last couple days leave one not knowing whether to laugh or cry. One has to do with the up and coming practice of sologamy. You have heard of polygamy, where one person marries more than one other person. Moslem men may marry as many as four wives. In America, the practice was popularized by the Mormons until the government forced them to stop. In contrast, sologamy is when one person marries him or herself. In the story I read, to celebrate her marriage of a year ago, the bride went on an anniversary trip, alone. Some people are neither laughing nor crying but capitalizing, selling sologamy paraphernalia like rings and other solo wedding goods. Well, maybe they are laughing…all the way to the bank.
The second story comes from our halls of higher education where one college has designated a large lounge as off-limits to white students to demonstrate their commitment to ethnic inclusiveness. Seriously, to show how they are committed to diversity and inclusiveness they exclude a large segment of their students from the lounge.
These two stories seem unrelated, but there is something at the root of both of them that makes me want to weep. It is not how absurd they are, which seem like a couple of bad jokes. What is similar is that both cases reveal the deep desire people have for acceptance and affirmation. The bride in the first story said that her ceremony meant she was enough, by herself, without being married to another. She was reacting to the many times she had answered the question of whether or not she was married. Now she has a way to answer that which affirms her value, and she has a ring to prove it. The students who have successfully gained a lounge for themselves have a “safe place” to be who they are without looking at people who appear different based on skin tone. They have a place where they can feel valuable and affirmed.
The reason I feel like weeping is that people are looking for affirmation of their value in all the wrong places. True acceptance does not happen because it is demanded. That is like the sign at the front of the institution which said, “The beatings will continue until morale increases.” When people figuratively grab you by the shirt, shake you, and say, “You will accept me. You will affirm me,” they generally gain nothing but scorn and contempt.
When a generation is programmed to believe that they are here as a great cosmic accident with no transcendent meaning, they will look for ways to find their own value. They must be part of a cause, like climate change or social justice. People value themselves based on what cause they espouse. They feel others are expendable. That is why abortion is no problem. The unborn have no cause and hence no value. Rather, these tiny humans often get in the way of the real agenda of those who are doing valuable things for the right causes, who affirm themselves and demand the acceptance of others.
Value does not come as a result of demand. No. The value of all humans comes because they are made in the image of God. Weep for this generation because they deny such value. Yet we cannot scorn them and hold them in contempt because as Christians we know that even the most radical among them has intrinsic value.
Kevin was one such radical. In the 1960’s and 70’s when unrest swept the nation, he was one of them. When one demonstration shut down a major bridge into Washington, D.C., Kevin was among those who were lying on the road obstructing traffic. I met him shortly after that incident. We were a rather unlikely pair to become friends. My background was very conservative and anti-socialist. I resisted the movement he was part of that was sweeping the country. But he was searching for meaning greater than he had found among the radicals. We found our agreement in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the promised Messiah of Israel. He who had given me meaning and purpose did the same for Kevin. He became a Christian. We valued one another because of Jesus, who is the foundation of our friendship.
Because every human being has God-given value, we must treat them with respect even if we disagree with them. It is important that we watch how we speak, even of our enemies. The book of James speaks of the tongue. “Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be” (Ja. 3:9, 10). All men are made in the likeness of God so we ought not to curse them.
However, people who do not know God and who gain their value from themselves will curse us. When that happens we have a pattern to follow in our Lord Jesus, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Pet. 2:23).
When Don was a teen ager and not committed to faith, he watched his father in a time of stress. His dad had worked all day cleaning ditches for the county after a heavy rain. The family just sat down for the meal when the phone rang. It was a disgruntled farmer who demanded immediate attention. Don went with his dad who, tired though he was, began the hard work the farmer required, clearing debris which had dammed up water flooding the farmer’s fields. While he was working in the hot drainage ditch, the farmer stood above him cursing him. Don seethed with anger. How could his dad not defend himself? How could he take such abuse? “Leave him alone, Don,” said his dad. “He’s not saved.” When I heard Don tell the story, tears came to his eyes. His father’s example had pushed him toward Christ. Don became a pastor and I looked up to him as a hero of faith. Don became a great man because his father had followed the pattern of our Lord Jesus.
When we understand that our value comes from being made in the image of God, we need not demand that others accept us. In fact, we are “strangers and pilgrims” and profess that we seek a better country. But while we pass through, we can show others their value by kind words and good deeds. The world will not understand, but some will be moved toward our Lord. Jesus gave us these words of encouragement: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).