Love, Acceptance & Forgiveness
At the heart of salvation is the notion of loving God with all our heart, mind and soul, and as Jesus said, to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is impossible to pass this test and break any of the commandments. We can visualize the latter concept as a package of virtue, consisting mostly of love, acceptance & forgiveness. I cannot imagine being like Christ, while lacking one of these traits.
I would like to introduce you to my grandson, Dylan. He is also one of my best friends. He calls me Papa. He is a model of acceptance for me, because he never rejects me, is always happy to see me, and lets me know this with a greeting and a big hug. He is impressive. He embodies the meaning of the Apostle Peter, where he says,
“Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.” 1 Peter 4:11 [MSG].
[Picture above: Love doesn’t begrudge one an extra glass of milk at Denny’s!]
Love is essential to relationships, in order for them to endure. People tend to shun relationships that have no payback. Acceptance is also important to all of us. We fold to peer pressure because we are looking for acceptance, but Dylan is pure in his love and acceptance. He doesn’t put any conditions on it; like the love and acceptance we get from Jesus – unconditional! It’s too bad that some others are not as loving and accepting of Dylan. They are missing out on a terrific relationship.
As you can tell from his picture, Dylan has Down ’s syndrome; thus he has not been blessed with a totally ideal life. He has faced challenges from birth. Despite this, he has great compassion for others.
Some time ago, I had some minor surgery on my leg. Dylan saw the bandage near my knee and demanded to see beneath it. ”Poor Papa,” he exclaimed, asking if it hurt. He insisted on monitoring the progress of the “scar” every time we were together, until you could hardly notice it any more. This is a level of caring that you do not see in others that often.
I Corinthians, chapter 13 describes love in certain ways, some of which are particularly characteristic of Dylan.
- Cares more for others than for self.
- Trusts God always,
- Never looks back, but keeps going to the end.
Dylan has learned to operate in this world in a way that illustrates clearly to all who know him, that the nature of Christ is transcendent to all of us, if we dare to embrace it. Love and acceptance needs to be cherished and celebrated, because it is rather rare. I am very fortunate to receive these gifts from Dylan.
It costs nothing to experience the love and acceptance of Jesus. He did it all! But I would like to be a disciple of Jesus. Stopping at (free) salvation and an eternity in Heaven is OK for some, but I want to be like Jesus. Part of the cost of discipleship is to give the gift of love and acceptance to others, like Dylan, thus emulating Jesus, who gave so freely to us!
Pray for me, I have a long way to go. It’s hard to love and accept some people, but I am trying to let The Holy Spirit work through me to accomplish things in my heart that I could never do!
Forgiveness also seems inherent to some of us.
It has been several weeks since I wrote about the remarkable capacity for love and acceptance demonstrated by my grandson (and best friend) Dylan. A lot has happened since. Unbeknownst to me at the time I first wrote the article, there was a controversy at Dylan’s school concerning a teacher that he used to have. He had been in her class about 2 1/2 years, but not currently. [Dylan attends a public school and takes special needs classes.]
This teacher and Dylan were in the same school district for over ten years, as Dylan took pre-K classes there. That is where Dylan met her. It came to the parents’ attention that all was not right in her current classroom. Reportedly, loud voices could be heard whenever approaching the classroom. A student with Down’s syndrome was found wandering alone out in the school parking lot. Someone inside the classroom stated that the teacher was upset with an autism student, because he would not join the group at a table; She reportedly went to him and yanked him out of the chair, where he fell to the floor. Accordingly, she kicked him several times.
Even more was to come to light, as it turns out that there was a poorly documented history of incidents with this teacher. It is suspected that the pattern went back to the time Dylan attended her class. Dylan has not said anything about any incident. One wonders what he possibly went through. This is a hard thing for parents/grandparents to forgive. I believe it is a test for us to see if we can walk the walk we have been talking! Can we separate the “sin” from the “sinner?” I am proud of my daughter-in-law, who went to the public meetings, concentrated on change, not punitive measures and helped point others that way also. This was hard for her, because the authorities moved this teacher around and did not fix the problem while it recurred, over and over.
At one of several meetings held to remedy the matter, when it was time for Dylan’s mother to speak, focusing on the heart of the issue, she took 1 1/2 of her three minutes at the podium in total silence. She explained, “That is all my child could do while witnessing events such as this.”
It is part of the prophet Isaiah’s message to help the helpless (loose translation). What should the role of the Parent/Grandparent/Concerned Citizen be in a situation such as this? Good Question…it will not be totally answered on this blog. But I would like to point out what I do know, so that we can at least head in the same general direction in unity. The Lord’s Prayer has us ask God to forgive us, “as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Ouch! I want to be forgiven, because I am certainly in need of that, but when someone else (deliberately?) wrongs me, I want justice. No world can be equitable, where certain people are always judged with mercy, and others always face the sword of justice. I’ve chosen to err on the side of mercy and let God balance it out. I trust Him more than the courts, anyway.
Then there is the account of Christ on the cross as recorded in Luke 23:34 (NKJV) Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” I do not know the mind of Dylan’s teacher, but I suspect she did not know the impact of her continued disrespect for her students. And as much as it goes against the grain, I have to fall on the side of Jesus’ guideline; from the cross where he was dying He encourages us to forgive the offenders. How powerful is that?
While I do not have all the answers, I know that the path of forgiveness is the answer for me. I am earnestly following that path, because there are some obstacles in the path of true forgiveness. I will face them honestly and adjust my attitude to meet God’s expectations. As for Dylan, just like his love and acceptance, he is a whole-hearted forgiver. And although he has not mentioned anything about abuse, if it happened or even if he witnessed abuse of others, Dylan is passed it. He is much more advanced in the fine art of forgiveness than many of us.
Finally, I am not saying that all of this should go unpunished. But if God takes care of it, any judgment will be appropriate and those of us who refrain from judging will not be destroyed in the process.
My prayer for you today, is that those of you who are seeking forgiveness will find it and that every one of us will be as liberal with our forgiveness as Jesus is with us!
P.S. The Brentwood Unified School District subsequently announced that the teacher in question has had her credentials revoked. The superintendent was placed on administrative leave and three other employees were fired. I take no special joy in this except to note that the battle was The Lord’s all along. He took care of it, so I didn’t have to worry about it. And that, my friends, is known as grace! Amen!