Do People Have a Right to Expect Us to Act Like We Talk?
A Word of Encouragmeent from Elizabeth Handford
My husband and I sat in a Chicago court room, awaiting a hearing to complete the adoption of our baby boy. The adoptive couple whose hearing was in progress seemed to be in trouble. The judge found out they'd bought the child in a commercial transaction. He was incensed. "You mean," he said, his anger barely controlled, "you paid somebody ten thousand dollars for this child? That is absolutely unacceptable. I will remove this child from your home immediately."
Stunned silence fell on the courtroom. How must those adoptive parents feel? We waited quietly while the judge
considered the options. "All right," he decided. "You may keep the child, but I will appoint a guardian ad litem who will monitor you weekly for the next six months." His husky voice rose to fill the courtroom. "You cannot break the laws of this country with impunity."
His words etched themselves in my heart. No matter how I longed for a baby, I could never pay for one! When God gave us six more children to adopt, we were meticulously careful not to make it even seem like we were buying the child. I believed that judge. The law was on his side. He spoke for truth and justice. It was right for me to obey every word he said.
Soon after, the judge was elected governor of the state. Not long after, he was indicted for breaking innumerable laws to build massive personal businesses with state monies. He'd used federal funds to build superhighways to serve those businesses. He was tried, convicted, and sent to prison.
When I read that indictment, I felt betrayed. The judge had used words like "honor," "justice," "truth," and "law," while he personally and blatantly dishonored them. Don't we have a right to expect a judge to obey the laws he requires of others?
Yes, it is my right, and yours. You have a right to expect me to live by what I say I believe. A citizen has the right to expect elected officials to keep the law. A church member has a right to expect his pastor to live the godly life he preaches. A employee has a right to expect his supervisor to be fair. A child has the right to see his parents live by the standards they hold for him.
And there's a parallel obligation. Citizens ought to keep the law. Church members ought to live like what they say they believe. An honest supervisor has the right to have an honest employee. A child ought to obey his parents. Philippians 2:14,15 says,
In everything you do,
stay away from complaining and arguing,
so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.
You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God
in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people.
Let your lives shine brightly before them.
The truth is, many of the people watching us secretly hope that what we say we believe is real. They yearn to see proof of what we say is true. Yes, they may be "crooked and perverse," but they have a right to see us acting like what we say we believe. And perhaps, then they too will come to believe.
A Word of Encouragement from Elizabeth Handford
I attended a women's conference recently where the speaker said "There is no word for coincidence in the Hebrew Bible." "Oh?" I wondered. "What about that verse in Ruth 2:3 that says, ‘And she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz.' That sounds sort of coincidental to me." Or when King Solomon said, "But time and chance happen to them all."
Then I remembered some odd coincidences in my life.
Seattle, Washington. Our family lived in Illinois. I was traveling with my father, doing his secretarial work and playing the piano for his evangelistic crusades in the evenings. At a Thanksgiving morning service in a cooperating church, an elderly couple asked if they could take us sight-seeing. My father agreed. I was surprised, because never before on this extended trip to the west coast had he ever agreed with anyone to go sight-seeing. "I'm here to preach the Gospel, not to see the sights," he'd say.
How was I to guess that in less than three years, I would be calling those dear people, my in-laws, "Mother and Daddy Handford"?
Oswego, New York. My husband Walt, from Illinois, was preaching at a Bible conference, and Frank, from South Carolina, was conducting the music. They felt a deep kinship and respect for each other. On the golf course one afternoon, Frank said wistfully, "I wish you were my pastor."
"I'd love it," Walt said, "but you already have a pastor."
How could we have guessed that within seven months, Frank's pastor would have resigned, and Walt Handford would be in South Carolina, pastoring the church where Frank was the music director?
Dallas, Texas. After a morning session at a Bible conference, three preachers were eating lunch together, the host pastor from Dallas, Walt from Illinois, and a pastor from Chattanooga. The Tennessee pastor told them about a sweet little five-year-old he'd met at his church the night before. "Adorable child," he said, "and, by the way, she's available for adoption."
How could I have known that within six months I would hold that precious child in my arms and that she would call me "Mother"? Coincidences? Or the beautifully engineering of a Heavenly Father who loves to give His beloved children His treasured gifts?
The steps of the godly are directed by the LORD.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
Though they stumble, they will not fall,
for the LORD holds them by the hand.
King David affirmed that God lovingly guides the steps of His children. Certainly, Ruth didn't just "happen" on that field. God sent her there to meet Boaz, the man she would marry. Through that "happenstance" she became part of the line through which Jesus would be born.
As the speaker at the women's conference said, "There is no word for coincidence in the Hebrew Bible." Thinking it over, maybe she was right.