Prays Together: Seeing a Whole Person

By Ian Hodge

This summer my church was very good to me in granting me a sabbatical. In case you aren’t familiar with what a sabbatical is, it’s an extended break from normal job responsibilities to explore other projects, or even just for rest (the word sabbatical is related to the word sabbath). I did a number of different things on my sabbatical (including rest), but one of the highlights was travelling to Germany to visit different sites related to the reformer Martin Luther.

Even though I’m not Lutheran, Martin Luther is a man I’ve grown to greatly admire. I admire him for his deep, enduring commitment to seeking after God in spirit and truth, and for his unwavering and often uncompromising stand against corruption in the 16th century church. And I also admire him in full awareness that he had some glaring and awful flaws; he was stubborn, had a spectacular temper, was uncompromising and worst of all, possessed of a rancorous anti-Semitism.

So what do we do with flawed heroes? I don’t think that there is a simple answer, but I do think there is an obvious place to start. Start in the car.

I don’t know about you, but when I get behind the wheel I start to learn things about myself that, upon reflection, aren’t always very nice. The other day I was driving on 198 in the right lane. As I approached an onramp I saw that I couldn’t move into the left lane to make room for merging cars. When I reached the point where the onramp merged into my lane, I saw a car that was trying to get over. Now, I know that it’s the responsibility of merging traffic to speed up or slow down, not my responsibility as the car already established in the lane. So imagine my surprise and irritation when the merging car didn’t speed up or slow down, but rather expected me to do so! Further, imagine my increasing irritation when the merging driver began, -ahem- gesturing at me to express their frustration.

I immediately started to think about how rude, inconsiderate and possibly horrible the person in the car next to mine was. But then, unbidden, I remembered that I also hadn’t always been a perfect driver, and yet I don’t consider myself to be rude, inconsiderate or horrible.

You see, here’s the truth of the matter. If every one of us were judged solely by the bad things we’ve done, thought or said, we too would be considered awful. The good news is that we don’t have to do that. And that’s where I find peace with Martin Luther and other heroes of history. They were, and are, human, just like me. They too have their shining moments, and their moments of deep shame. I can see both, not just the one. And instead of merely condemning to satisfy my own or other’s outrage, I can, with humility, remember that every person is more than their worst moments or worst traits. And you know what? That realization is freeing!

Ian Hodge is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Lemon Cove. He may be reached by calling 559-597-2249.

Prays Together is a rotating column between the pastors of the First Presbyterian Church of Exeter, Church of Christ of Exeter, Nazarene Church of Exeter, Church of God of Exeter, the New Life Assembly of God and Rocky Hill Community Church as well as the Lemon Cove Presbyterian Church.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

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