In the Shadows

I am reading the novel Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes.  Although the book is work of fiction, Marlantes is a Vietnam veteran and every review I checked says he nails the environment that we, our allies, and our opponents fought in during the Vietnam War.  It is sobering.  First, the jungle already had a plethora of animal and insect life to make life miserable for any human being before they even began fighting.  Plus, add on to this that when they got home, they were frequently not welcomed home was heroes as in so many other military conflicts but as villains.  Even after going through hell, and the very same PTSD that our troops wrestle with today, they had to deal with people from home calling them ‘baby killers’ and worse.  It must have been incredibly difficult.

During the last week of Jesus’ life, while hundreds, maybe thousands, are gathering to worship and hear him speak, he stops everyone and points out an old woman who comes up to the offering box and drops in the equivalent of a few pennies.  Jesus praises her for it.  His teaching reminds us that what is in our heart when we give is more important than how much we give.  Are we giving our best?  Are we trusting in God?  Those are the questions we traditionally raise.

But isn’t it interesting that Jesus notices her in the first place?  Women were not the leaders in that society.  On top of this, this was an old woman.  On top of this, this was a poor woman.  This was exactly the kind of person that probably the overwhelming majority of in the Temple would take no notice of whatsoever.  Yet, of all the people there, she alone is the one Jesus stops to praise.

I believe in seeking out those in the shadows and those in the margins.  I believe Jesus calls us to notice people like the war veteran who no one does anymore.  I believe we are called to talk to the kid in class who no one chooses to sit by.  I believe we are called to go out and visit the person in the nursing home that no one else visits.  I believe while many seek to make a point for God on the shining mountain tops of life that Jesus takes note of those who venture into the shadows, not to relish the shadows, but to help walk with others back into the light.

Going into the shadows doesn’t mean embracing the shadows.  To use my example above, showing respect for the Vietnam War Veteran and befriending him (or her) doesn’t mean that you now think the Vietnam War was a great thing.  But our goal in the treatment of any human being should not be about making a statement about something but rather developing a relationship.

Sometimes people in the shadows have grown accustomed to it.  Sometimes they will fight to stay in the shadows.  Some may even argue the shadows are a better place.  In the end, it is their call not ours.  But more often than not, people are in the shadows because it seems to them that no one cares anymore.  They are slowly “fading away.”  But God cares about them.  And God’s people are called to remind them of that and to bring them back when we can.

After all, isn’t that was Jesus did for us?

Just some food for thought on the Wednesday before Easter.

All the best,

Tom

http://www.amazon.com/Matterhorn-Novel-Vietnam-Karl-Marlantes/dp/080211928X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270064434&sr=8-1

Luke 20:45-21:4

[45] While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, [46] “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. [47] They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.”

[21:1] As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. [2] He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. [3] “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. [4] All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

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