When Life and Love Intersect
I came across this article on The Mars Hill Blog about a community group that reaches out to the deaf community in the Seattle area. As I read the post and watched the videos I was moved to tears because the whole time I kept “hearing” this phrase in my mind:
If you have ears to hear…
This is a common phrase used by Jesus to challenge the people who were not receiving His message. Jesus was pushing further into their assumptions exposing their tendency to follow the path of least resistance. This danger of complacency in the face of a difficult ministry may be part of the reason that so many people are satisfied with attendance rather engagement. What this article did was to expose my tendency to think in ways that are far too narrow when it comes to who has access to the message of Jesus. It is easy to think that everybody is able to hear and understand the gospel message when it is presented.
Some of the statistics that were offered about the number of hearing impaired individuals that have not “heard” the Gospel is stunning and to the church’s shame. The following information was given regarding the hearing impaired demographic.
According to multiple Christian Deaf ministries organizations, approximately 2 percent of the deaf population call themselves Christians, Cheslik said. Only 7 to 9 percent will ever be exposed to the gospel in ASL. [Ed. About 1 million people in the U.S. are deaf, and another 10 million are hard of hearing. About three-quarters of the total U.S. population identifies as Christian in some form.]
Confronted with my own Biases
I have been challenged on two fronts. One is the theological front and the other is practical.
Theologically, there are two observation about the reality that Jesus is communicating is that “having ears to hear” is exclusively a heart issue. The one who has the message, the Christian, must make every effort to bridge the gap between the message to be shared and the heart to be touched. What cannot be done is to risk diluting the Gospel’s message by over-simplifying important concepts or leaving the out all together. The theological work of making sure that we know what we are communicating is of first importance.
Connected to this first observation is the one that is more personal. It just never occurred to me that a physiological problem could be a road block to someone hearing the Gospel. I was/am so convicted by this short-coming in my understanding.
The second front that was confronted is of a practical nature. As a church, both local and catholic, what are we doing to reach into those sub-cultures that either have an obstacle that needs to be over come (either on our side or theirs) or a hindrance that cannot be over? The call of the Gospel and the command to love, both friend and enemy, means being proactive in our approaches and strategies. We cannot get stuck in paradigms that worked some time ago, but do not really address the present and potential future needs.
The Nature of Faith
The nature of faith is always to be looking forward. Too often the church has found herself reminiscing about a by-gone era. Hoping and wishing for a return of “the good ol’ days” will not put us in a position to envision of future filled with God’s will.
Vision, the kind of vision that the Bible advocates, is always looking forward in to the future and slightly above what is happening right now.
Vision looks forward because we have to learn to live and play the game of life anticipating what is coming down the road. It has to look slightly above because we cannot get caught up in what is going on. Our sights are set on God and his eternal promises. Promises that call us forward and call is higher than our present situation.