“I’m no sex sheriff.”

Posted: January 13, 2014 in helping
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People keep asking me the same question, “What do you think about …?”

I don’t love these moments. Why? Well, to often the  interlocutors are a bit too tense for my taste. They lean forward, or back. They have anxious hands. The skin above their eyes wrinkles and twitches.

“What do you think about gays? What do you think about marijuana? What do you think about women in church leadership? What do you think about the war? What do you think about politics? What do you think about religion?  What do you think about global warming?”

To me these questions sometimes feel like traps. I am being asked to step on the sticky paper, under the spring-loaded metal, into the cage. I am being trapped into giving the “right” answer, or getting the hammer.

More often than not, these discussions also feel like triangulations. “Let’s whisper together for a moment about “those people — you know —  that monolithic block of people who who don’t think like we do but aren’t present to defend themselves.”

I am not with it. Too many over-generalities, cliches, biases and harsh judgments for my taste.

I  suspect that when we discuss our “positions,”  on people, we are often doing damage to good thinking, to ourselves and to those not present.  It quickly becomes clear that we are bent on testing each other and them. We want to know if they are a common, correctable enemy or if we are like-minded, mental “friends”  who will “like” each other’s posts on Facebook.

The questions we are really asking of each other is, “Are you one of us?” Are you a conservative, are you a liberal, are you Republican, are you a Democrat, are you a Christian, are you a Muslim, are you  responsible, or not, are you in favor of being straight or gay, do you hold to the true faith, are you tolerant, or intolerant, after the fashion that we all “should be”?

The questions are usually about a law in question, a particular moral issue, a person or set of people who we think have broken a law, a view of sexuality, a position on gender, a use of money, a politician who is under scrutiny or a political party’s platform. 

We get quite exercised over such stuff, we tend in our position-making to stop thinking clearly, we too often lose sight of deeper matters that underlie such discussions.

We lose sight of our callings.

I don’t know what other people’s callings are. I am beginning to discover mine.

I am not called to law.  I am not a good law maker, judge, lawyer, police officer, sheriff, soldier, correctional officer or moral sheriff of the world. We need those people. They serve important roles. I’m glad for our protectors, our legal people, our legal teams, when they do what they do well, it’s just that law and enforcement are not my passion, my gifting, my desire, my inclination or most importantly, my calling. 

I’m not so good at making laws, even at making rules. I’m not even good at keeping them. I’m not saying we don’t need them. I just find myself drawn to other ways of approaching life, of other motivations, other passions, other delights.

I met some people recently who it seemed, felt that they were called to be the sex sheriffs of the world. They seemed to know what the sex laws and the sex rules should be. I don’t know too much about this area of specialty. I know that harmful decisions can result from poor sexual choices. It’s just that I really don’t feel called to legislate, monitor and punish other people’s sexual behavior.

I’m no sex sheriff.

My calling is more in the direction of redemption. I know people do wrong things. I know because I’ve done them too. I know people make bad choices. I’ve made them too. What I find myself fascinated by is how we move forward after harmful choices, not how we charge, judge, punish or condemn people for having done wrong things. My experience has educated me in this direction.

I find that my calling is to redemption, to renewal, to recovery, and in this calling I am drawn to understanding individuals, not categories of people,”getting” the person in front of me, not by critiquing groups off to the side of me. When faced with a moral crisis, I like a one-on-one dialogue with the specific brokenness right out there on the table, and the question of the hour right at hand.

“Now, let’s  talk openly about who you are, what’s been going on with you, and where you would do best to go next.  What is the most reasonable, healthy, spiritual option for you now?”

I am not a relativist, but I don’t know all the legal and moral answers concerning right and wrong.

I know this: The older I get the less I have it in me to want to be a legal and moral expert, a judge, and the more I  have it in me to be a physician. I have a passion for an accurate diagnosis. I thrill over understanding each patient. I burn for the exact proscription for the each precious, imperfect one.  I am ramped-up to help people recover and move on, and to use their pain as rocket fuel to empower a new, if yet imperfect future.

For me, too many of the questions, discussions and generalizations about moral or legal failure feel like military ordinance, explosive, and fraught with collateral damage. On the other hand, specific curatives, custom designed remedies, patient-centered therapy  — this is my line of work. I’m not saying we can’t generalize about right and wrong. I am saying I do my best thinking when I am dialoguing with individuals about getting well.  I am better at medicine than law. 

I know now that I am at my best when I’m affirming people, not condemning them. I am a supporter of people; not a opponent of people. I like to talk super-honestly over coffee, not to carry a placard in the street.  I’d rather ask questions than make judgments. I want to make a mark on the world by triumphing what I am for, not what I am against. Others have the calling to bring the judgment; they must do that. I have a calling to bring about compassion. This is my delight.

I am at my best when I am thinking along the lines of forgiveness, when I am bringing mercy, when I am focused on understanding, when I am bringing healing to individuals, not when I’m judging others or sparring with interrogators who want to see if my moral and legal judgments are in alignment with correct doctrine —  as they know it. I am probably not in alignment.

Here is the deal with me, and I am comfortable who I am: I don’t care to think too much about what people have done wrong.

I do care a lot about helping individuals who are open and ready to see what might be wise and healthy for them to do next.

Comments
  1. marilynn says:

    You go doctor, hooray . I love lots of compassion and grace. Especially for people who struggle with a less then past as I did f o r years. Grace to all , Jesus can figure out the rest. I am called to love.

  2. artwidow says:

    I LOVE this!!!!

    Connie S. Chambers

    Executive Director

    Good Samaritan of the Ozarks

    Genesis: A Place of New Beginnings

    573-774-4040

    gsoto_logo

  3. rperkin4 says:

    I’m with you. It’s so easy to be judgmental at a distance. But when the person is in front of me, I find my response must be filtered, flavored, and filled with love and grace. “While I was yet a sinner, Christ died for me.” May Jesus Christ guide every relationship I have, and am destined to have.

  4. Jerry Troyer says:

    Well said and well lived my friend. Jesus life model in action here in the 21st century It is the new covenant.. From a sinner forgiven through mercy and blessed with grace.

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