It’s funny where life brings you sometimes; down paths you never thought you would travel. Sometimes circumstances simply demand a response. This is one of those times and it brought me to a table across the street from the golden-capped state house in the capital of my home state of New Hampshire. The table we sat around was indicative of how I’ve always viewed the world of politics; dark, overbearing, and excessive, with oversized chairs that were anything but cozy.
Quite surprisingly, the sentiment in the room was opposite from anything I would have guessed I’d find in the political arena. Sitting around the table was one of our state senators; conservative, unabashedly pro-life and quite impressively adament that God belonged in the room. Next to him sat a past member of NH’s Executive Council with views right in line with that of his neighbor. To his left sat the Executive Director of Cornerstone Action NH, a nonprofit “dedicated to a NH where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive and life is cherished.” Beside her sat an attorney who works closely with Cornerstone and finishing out the attendees was myself and the long-time Director of the foster care and adoption agency we used to bring our daughter home, Bethany Christian Services.
Everyone in the room was convened as a result of a political attack on the agency; more specifically, a direct and unconstitutional attack on religious freedom.
A faith-based agency, Bethany’s mission of “keeping and bringing families together” is founded on the biblical truths that all life is a gift meant to be cherished and family is created through the love between husband and wife. To put it simply, this cuts deeply with some — very deeply — and because of this belief, certain members of NH’s Executive Council are on a mission to put an end to the critical, life-saving work of an agency dedicated to serving vulnerable children.
Leaving the legislative building that day, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the dedication of this small but mighty group. My heart was unsettled, however, as I was on my way to sit around an entirely different table — one that sat in a warm, welcoming and cozy environment, yet was adorned by a majority who held views in direct opposition to those I had just left. Many around this table would argue that the definition of family is open to same-sex couples. This is incredibly difficult for me, as this issue has faces attached to it — hearts that are good — so good — and vulnerable. Hearts that could and would love a child well — so well. While I wholeheartedly believe in God’s perfect design, I am not here to judge those who don’t. That said, I do feel strongly that all religious freedoms — mine and that of others — needs to be protected.
This leaves me to ask what I would submit is the most important question; how do I get an invitation to Jesus’ table?
Let me back up a step and explain that Bethany Christian Services has offices in more than thirty states. Because the government runs the foster care system, each Bethany office must contract with the state to serve children in foster care. Each state has different requirements for the Bethany offices to adhere to. Fairly recently, the state of Michigan, where Bethany is headquartered, left Bethany with a choice: “Accept applications from same-sex couples for foster care and foster care adoption or lose the legal right to conduct foster care in Michigan.” Michigan chose to sign the contract in an effort to continue serving the thousands of children in foster care. As stated by Bethany’s president, “Bethany chose to continue serving children because Christians need to reflect God’s light into the lives of kids who have been traumatized, abused and neglected.”
This issue is shrouded in anger. Recently, an article came out attacking Bethany’s decision, claiming Bethany has “raised the white flag” and succumbed to liberal state requirements. Both sides are yelling and neither are looking at the real victims of the battle — the children.
In sitting with my confusion and frustration over this highly sensitive and critical issue, what came to mind is the parable of the Good Samaritan. The children in foster care; they are the man robbed, beaten and stripped of all his possessions. These precious, innocent kids have been removed from their families and homes because of neglect and abuse. They have deep wounds; emotional and often physical. They don’t know the feeling of unconditional love; the comfort of feeling secure, the joy of being cherished just for being who they are.
The right-wing conservative is the first passerby. He glances at the victim with compassion, yet walks by with indignant righteousness. His desire to help is trumped by the chains of his moral compass.
The left-wing liberal is the second passerby, so blinded by anger he doesn’t even notice the man lying on the ground.
Bethany is the Good Samaritan: putting aside their differences to take their place at the table, to instruct others on what it means to minister to the needs of the most vulnerable.
Christians are not to love their believing brothers to the exclusion of their non-believing fellowmen. That is ugly. We are to have the example of the good Samaritan consciously in mind at all times. (Francis Schaeffer)
We need to see the children. If we, as Christians, walk away, what are we teaching the world about the ways of the Lord? Jesus showed up in the hard places. He took His seat next to the sinner and he also challenged the self-righteous to understand that anger never earns a seat at His table. This parable Jesus shared with His closest followers
… insists that enemies can prove to be neighbors, that compassion has no boundaries, and that judging people on the basis of their religion or ethnicity will leave us dying in a ditch. (Dr. Amy-Jill Levine)
Copyright 2019 Nicole Johnson