Ambassador of Reconciliation
10/23/15 at 05:24 PM 19 Comments

“You created my inmost being”

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A recurring theme in my life lately is recognizing the value of every single human life. In his sermon two weeks ago, our pastor spoke about “the inestimable worth of every person,” which prompted me to write a post on that subject. Last Sunday both the choir anthem and the offertory hymn were based on Psalm 139, which tells how God forms us in the womb, knows all our thoughts, and guides all the events of our lives. I keep hearing about people whose life stories have touched me in some way, and I think about how each one is known by God and precious to Him.

A few days ago I read the story of George Bell, an old man who died alone in his apartment in New York City, unnoticed until the stench of his corpse revealed his passing. This week I heard for the first time the remarkable story of Emma Rowena Gatewood, who in 1955 at the age of 67 hiked the entire 2,168 miles of the Appalachian Trail. She did it again at age 72, and then again in sections at age 75. Another incredible story is that of Minka Disbrow, who at age 16 was assaulted and raped. She became pregnant and gave up the baby girl for adoption, but always longed to know her daughter. God remembered her, heard her prayer, and granted her request before she died.

I also learned about Martin Pistorius, who at the age of 12 fell into a coma. For nearly ten years it seemed that nobody was home in his body. He later said, “For many years I was like a ghost. It was like I wasn’t there. I was invisible.” Then a therapist noticed a glimmer in his eye and realized that he was aware of everything going on around him. Through intensive therapy he regained some use of his body and learned to communicate by computer. He earned a degree, got married, and wrote a book about his life, Ghost Boy: My escape from a life locked inside my body.

A Nightline segment this week (October 19, 2015) was about Jaxon Buell, a precious little baby who was born with most of his brain missing. Many parents would have chosen to abort a baby with such a condition, knowing that he probably would not make it to birth and certainly would not live long afterward. But Jaxon’s parents loved him even before he was born, even with only part of a brain, and they are “trying to give him the best life possible, knowing it could be a short life.” Even in his short time on earth, he has drawn people to Christ. Jaxon has just celebrated his first birthday, and his parents know that his little life has a purpose in God’s plan.

In fact, each of these people, great or small, famous or unknown, has worth and purpose. So do all the people who are nameless and faceless to us, but intimately known by God. How many more George Bells are there in New York and around the world? The story of Grandma Gatewood is a triumphant one, but another AT hiker met a tragic end. Geraldine Largay had hiked almost 1,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail and then she vanished in an isolated area of western Maine more than two years ago. Her remains were discovered this month in the wilderness about two miles from the trail. On the day that her remains were found, search crews found the body of another hiker, Claire Marie Cocuzzo, in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Both of these women died alone, the story of their last days known only to God.

The haunting images of Aylan Kurdi, the little Syrian boy who drowned when the boat in which his family was trying to escape the violence in Syria capsized, tell only one story among tens of thousands of refugees. Aylan’s dad, who lost his wife and both sons, asks, “Is there anyone whose children are not valuable to them?” He is like myriads of parents around the world who only want to provide a safe home for their children. Now, he says, “Everything I was dreaming of is gone.”

The plight of the Syrian people is well known, but have you heard of the Rohingya people of Myanmar? They were featured on Nightline on October 21. The Rohingya Muslims have been the victims of appalling human rights abuses for decades. As Matt Smith, founder of the human rights organization Fortify Rights, told ABC News’ Bob Woodruff, “It is so bad here that the best option is to face death, torture or abuses at sea or in Thailand just to escape.”

We also have countless examples in the Bible of people who had little value in the eyes of the world but were known by God and important to Him. Many were refugees, just like modern-day refugees, fleeing from oppression or famine and seeking a haven for their families. In our women’s Bible study this year we are studying the life of Ruth the Moabitess. Her future in-laws had fled from Bethlehem to Moab to escape a famine. She married one of the sons, but her father-in-law, her husband, and her brother-in-law all died. It seemed that all was lost for Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi, but in His providence God took them back to Bethlehem, where Ruth married again and gave birth to a son who would become the grandfather of King David. So a poor foreign girl became God’s vessel to carry on the line from Abraham through David to Jesus, the Messiah.

October 22 marked the second anniversary of the murder of a beloved young teacher, Colleen Ritzer. She was murdered by one of her students, 14-year-old Philip Chism, at a school three miles from our home. Two months before she died, Ritzer tweeted the Taylor Swift quote, “No matter what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind.” On the anniversary of her death, her legacy was honored with a day of kindness, when people performed acts of goodwill in her memory

When you hear stories like these, do you think about each person as a person? Do you consider the fact that each and every one of these people is a human being created by God in His image, intimately known to Him, and dearly beloved by Him? Not just the beautiful people like Colleen Ritzer, but also the lonely ones like George Bell and the little ones like those lost in the womb and the nameless ones like the refugees and even the ones who do evil like Philip Chism. If as Christians we want to reflect the character of our heavenly Father, then we need to see people through His eyes and to love not just our near neighbors but also our distant fellow human beings and even our enemies. In the words of Colleen Ritzer,

Treat everyone with kindness, dignity, compassion, and respect whether or not you think they understand.

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