Monday, February 5, 2007

Human resources?

Right now I'm at home in Saginaw. While I was on vacation last weekend in Fez, Morocco, I got a call from my mother telling me that my Opa (German for "grandpa") was expected to die at any point from kidney failure and fever. (It's a long story.) After several hours of harried searching on the Internet, I found a flight and got back to Detroit the next day. Opa didn't die, but he spent a week in the ICU. He has since been moved out, but I've never seen him so weak: he sleeps almost all day, talks little, and eats even less. Some days I was spending up to eighteen hours in the hospital, taking turns with others in my family to watch over him.

All that is to say that I was home for dinner tonight, which also means a usual butting of heads with my one of my family over how to live rightly. We rarely agree.

My mom was telling about when she began teaching at an elementary school in inner-city Saginaw. The faculty were socially split between whites and blacks, but my mom refused to take sides. Another family member interjected, "That's fine. Just make sure you don't get caught with the losers." When I inquired as to what exactly he meant, he clarified that I need to make sure I hang out with the right crowd, so as not to jeopardize my career. He cited "Wally" from the Dilbert comic strip as such a "loser" to avoid.

I was immediately taken aback. What a graceless way to live! Did Jesus deem us worthy of fellowship and conducive to his own self-promotion before choosing to associate with and suffer for us? I'm pretty sure the historical record goes something like this: "While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die--but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8). In other words, we were helpless, worthless, even hostile nobodies.

People are not commodities to be used, to be alternately befriended or shunned on the basis of what they can do for us. And they are not problems in our way needing to be solved or else put at a distance. Until recently, businesses had "personnel" departments; now they have "human resources." Resources? Like iron ore? Sugar beets? Lumber? Everyone, even Wally--even me!, bears the image of God and is precious to him. The religious leaders snickered and scoffed at Jesus' relationships that were unfitting to his role as a rabbi. "Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!" (Luke 7:34). Likewise when Simon the Pharisee saw that Jesus allowed a promiscuous woman to bathe and anoint his feet, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner" (Luke 7:39).

Yet I often find that as quick as I am to find fault with others, something equally corrupt lies within my own heart as well. Time will tell.
(To his credit, when I talked with him later in the evening, he acknowledged that God has treated us differently than he views others.)

Lord, help us to see that we are all losers, unworthy of your love. Yet you have showered it upon us and not withheld it! Forgive us! Open our eyes to our own prejudices and the ways we use others for our own means, and bring us to repentance, treating everyone as we ourselves wish to be treated: with dignity, value, and intimacy. Amen.

1 comment:

halfmom said...

As one looser to another - I'm quite glad that I didn't and couldn't earn anything - because then I'd have to live up to it - all impossible.

The life of faith is a difficult one - especially when it involves being scoffed at or discounted by your family - that is very similar to what I went through with my sister when I was called home to be with my mom at the hospital - and if was very difficult for me. I found myself wondering if I really was who I thought I was - because surely if I was, they would see truth - yet another lie from the pit of hell.

Glad you were able to get home to be with your grampa - treasure the time you have with him because it does sound like you treasure him.

Grace and peace Drew - and thanks for the comments on the previous post - I just sat down to read blogs for the first time in a week or so before sleep and saw them.