Amazing Advocates

For the past 2 years, I have been a part of a Doctorate of Ministry cohort at Multnomah Biblical Seminary.  One of the main goals of developing a cohort is to foster a community of people who develop meaningful relationships while working on their degrees.  I can say that this goal has been a success in my eyes when it comes to our cohort.  As much as I have learned from the academic part of our program, I have learned much more from the people I have shared this experience with over the past couple years.  They are a great group of godly people whom I greatly admire and appreciate.

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The most recent term of our program has been focused on the topic of advocacy.  Especially since this will be the last term that I will be able to study with most of these people, I wanted to use this blog to advocate, in some small way, for these fine people.  Paul Metzger (inspiring photo below) is our cohort leader and professor for our classes.  He is a very intelligent man who passionately teaches from his heart.  He has a calling to build bridges within Christendom and also across faith, and he effectively shares this passion through both his teaching and his life.  Jody Bormuth is a wonderful lady who teaches and mentors young ladies into Christ-likeness.  She has a way of sharing deep and challenging truths in a compassionate and simple manner.  I am encouraged by her heart for God and others.

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James Polensky is a youth pastor who has a real passion for youth and for interacting with those of other faiths, especially Muslims.  He displays a gentle spirit and empathy for people, and I have been encouraged by my talks with him.  Eric Knox is a pastor in Portland.  He also coaches a girls’ varsity basketball team, and he has a great ministry with young people.  He has brought a lot of new insights to me about race relations and the issues affecting minorities.  Mark Nicklas is a pastor in Portland who often travels overseas to support pastors and missionaries in other countries, and to help spread the Gospel of Christ.  He has a heart for God and people, and he has shared many good theological and practical thoughts in our classes.  Bill Myers is a pastor in Northern California who also ministers to people nearing death in hospitals and other places of care.  I have been encouraged and challenged by reading his blogs, and also by hearing his explanations of challenges the church faces in general and the areas he is specifically involved in as far as ministry.  (I really enjoyed my visit to his church this past summer and he was quite a gracious host.)

JP is a chaplain who works with people in very difficult circumstances.  His humility and clear applications of living out the life of Christ has had a profound impact on my life.  He speaks with wisdom and is willing to challenge without being accusatory or hurtful.  I greatly admire his life and ministry.  Chris Haughee works with children who have serious emotional and personal challenges.  He advocates for them tirelessly and gives his life to them and their cause.  He strives to serve Christ through difficult circumstances.  Cliff Chappell is a pastor in urban Portland.  He is a wise and gracious man who patiently and persistently serves his church and the people in his community.  He has a great passion for seeing race relations improve and for social justice.  Will Berkley is a professor in the Seattle area.  He has a servant’s heart and is willing to give of himself to help others.  I have been encouraged by his sincere heart.

Eric Thompson works in Reno and has been a pastor.  Even though I’ve only interacted with him electronically, his heart for the church and for Christians to live out the words of Christ is palpable.  I can tell his heart is genuine and big.  Greg Dueker is a pastor at heart and he obviously loves to study and teach the Word of God.  I have grown from hearing him speak and reading his blogs as he expounds the Scriptures.  I can tell he desires to grow and have real community with other Christians.  John McKendricks (besides being a Dodgers’ fan) is also a great man of integrity.  He desires to see sex trafficking in his area be stopped and he advocates for them and other disadvantaged people.   I admire his love for people and his real-life experiences shared during our times together in class.  Serena Breining works with women in Wisconsin who have had some serious life problems.  She obviously has an extremely kind and caring heart, and her desire to share the love of God with others is contagious.  Her applying of theology to real life has taught me the importance of making theology practical.  Finally, (Gosh, I hope I haven’t forgotten anyone!) Wilfred Kaweesa is a gentle and sincere man who pastors in Portland.  His love for people and specifically the challenges people from his home country face both here and in their own country.  He identifies with his people and enters into their lives as an advocate.

These men and women have all positively affected my life.  I am encouraged to be a part of a cohort with them, and I’m thankful for the life-long friendships I have made.  I admire them all as advocates and I pray God will bless them and encourages them greatly in such a manner as they have encouraged me!

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The Least of These

I resonate with the challenge and admonishment Dr. Paul Metzger recently gave in his blog “The Crucified God confront Gendercide.”  In it he unpacks Luther’s theology of grace, works and salvation to show how because of God’s unconditional love for us, we can spend our time and energies serving others and not worrying about our own merits and concerns.  We spend so much of our lives trying to prove ourselves and live up to our own and others’ expectations.  We often don’t even stop to evaluate whether what we are living for is even worth it.  Nevertheless, we can live a great majority of our lives without a clear purpose or defined vision.

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God’s vision for us is to be like his son Jesus Christ.  Christ was selfless and humble.  He was fully content and fulfilled in who he was and lived his life entirely giving of himself.  This runs totally contrary to the natural self stained by sin.  Only the transforming work of the Spirit can turn us into people of love, mercy and humility.

There are some in this world that are considered “the least.”  They are people who have little power, few resources and can easily be taken advantage of by others.  In reality, they are no “less” than us, but in this world they are definitely getting the short end of the stick.  God calls us to care for everyone, and especially for those who have less than us in this world.  This would include many minorities, women, and the poor.  They could be our next-door neighbors or across on the other side of the world.  Any time God puts people in our lives or on our hearts, we need to be ready and willing to give of ourselves to them.  We should keep our eyes wide open and our hands ready to help.

This is one of those truths that we must consistently be reminded of  because it goes against the grain of our normal everyday lives.  We seemingly have enough to take care of in our own lives—health, work, bills, family, etc.—that to add others’ needs seems too much.  Yet, there is Christ calling us to do just that.  To give and give some more “taking no though” of our own lives’ needs.  We must remember we are not of this world.  We must remember this is not our home, although it is our current abode.  The future is bright, but the present must be lived to its fullest, which means living for others and especially those in the greatest need!

Selflessness

One type of advocacy that God often frowns on is self-advocacy.  Throughout the Bible we are told to help others and make sure their rights aren’t violated, but we are also told to let go of our own rights and let God take care of our needs.  This is very difficult for us as humans to do.  You often hear comments such as, “ you must learn to love yourself before you can love others” and “if you don’t look out for yourself, no one will look out for you.”  These comments reflect a culture in which many people think of themselves first, and in which people are selfish and greedy.  Sin has certainly messed up individuals, relationships and society.  At the heart of sin is selfishness and selfishness has a way of perpetuating itself.  A continual turning inward spiraling into infinite emptiness.

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At the opposite end of the spectrum is the Trinity.  Three perfect persons in complete unity and selflessness.  Christ epitomized this truth by coming to earth, “emptying Himself,” and sacrificing Himself for us.  He did not hold onto his rights and riches, but he freely gave them up in order to free us from the paralyzing problem of selfishness.  Our pride hinders us from accepting such humility and love.  We want to do things for ourselves and earn our righteousness.  We want to hold onto our perceived self-determination and individuality.  We often do not realize that what the world glorifies God condemns, and what God honors the world despises.

It is unfortunate that we live in a fallen world where if one does not watch one’s own back, the shirt often gets taken off of it.  Many feel forced into focusing on their own needs because otherwise they very well might not be met.  God tells us to “not worry about our lives” and to trust in our Heavenly Father to provide for us.  He also tells us to not just “look to our own interests” but to look out for others’ interests.  I believe the primary way he provides for His children is through their brothers and sisters.  If we are too caught up in providing for ourselves, we will not “carry one another’s burdens” and fulfill the law of Christ.

The life of faith is filled with thrills and challenges.  Faith is “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  I have often thought how we can only live by faith in this life.  In the next life, we will see “as we are also seen”—not “through a glass darkly” but instead face to face.  Faith will turn into sight.  Our many trials and tribulations are indeed working in us a glory that will only be full revealed in eternity.  We can choose to trust God and live by faith knowing that we really can live this life focused on others instead of ourselves, or we can hedge our bets and take care of ourselves first and help others only out of our excess.  It’s a daily battle and decision, and the more we live out God’s will for our lives the more we will encourage others to do so and so perpetuate His presence in this world!

To Bait or not to Bait

Intents and motives are so important to consider.  Many times in the worldviews class I teach, we will talk about the importance of knowing why someone did what they did in order to evaluate the action.  For instance, if we saw a young man helping an old lady across the street, initially it would warm our hearts.  However, if we later found out that the young man stole her wallet while doing so, our fuzzy feelings would turn to anger and a desire to find and punish the young man.

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In a recent article about faith, dying and advocacy, Dr. Paul Metzger admonishes Christians to be careful not to appear as if we are pulling a “bait and switch” when we interact with people of other faiths when they are close to death.  He advises that we should understand how death is viewed by those of other faiths, and also primarily look to share love and genuine concern for them by recognizing the shared humanity we have with them and giving of ourselves to them.  I do largely agree with his premise and admonishments, but I also thought as I read his blog of how bad I would feel if I did not share about Jesus and my faith with a dying person.  At times, would it not be better to risk being viewed as manipulative or insensitive in order to clearly share with that person who Christ is and what He tells us about life and death?

The motivation is so key in such a situation.  I do believe people sense genuine love.  For instance, sharing “the gospel” only out of habit and so we feel like we did our “duty” could very easily come across as cold, insensitive, and hurt the name of Christ.  However, openly asking the person if we could share Christ with him or her and with a real deference to his or her wishes and motivated by the love of Christ could be a beautiful thing no matter what the response happens to be.

The idea of “bait and switch” has negative overtones.  It carries with it the sense of ulterior motives and often a selfish focus.  I do not think it is a good witness to do a real bait and switch, even when sharing the gospel of Christ.  However, I could see how others might view what a Christian does in sharing the gospel as a bait and switch, because they might assume our motives are just to control people or bring money into our church or even earn some spiritual “rewards.”  Nevertheless, others’ assumptions are not always something we can control.

I do believe the Holy Spirit will guide us and prompt us if we are sensitive to His leading in such delicate situations.  I do believe that if I err, I want to err on the side of sharing Christ with people, especially if they are close to death.  As always, the relationship one has with the dying person and his or her family is paramount.  If there is a good relationship built on trust and open to real communication, I believe these situations can be a beautiful opportunity to share life with others in the fullest ways and fulfill the Great Commission Christ gave us without unnecessarily offending others or being deceptive in any way!

Airports and “Passive” Advocacy

I actually normally enjoy being in airports.  I suppose the exceptions are if I’m running to catch a plane or stranded without a plan, but other than that I usually enjoy the experience.  I believe the reason is that I usually feel content and settled.  There is no place to go, nothing urgent that needs to be done.  Nothing around the next bend or over the next hill.  No one expects me to do anything more than I am doing—waiting, reading, eating and generally passing the time.

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I’ve noticed that being in the airport also affords me the time to journal, pray and think about the bigger picture of my life.  Some of my best times in prayer and some of the moments of clarity I’ve experienced in life have happened in airports.  The experience that I have recently had made me think how this might connect with the current topic in my seminary class, that of advocacy.  At first, there does not seem to be an obvious connection.  Advocacy is generally associated with acting, doing and not being content with the status quo.  This is certainly a main part of advocacy and pushing for change is at the heart of advocacy.  However, as I realized how beneficial the time in the airport often can be to me, I wondered if there was the possibility of “passive advocacy.”

Here is what I mean by passive advocacy.  It is the benefitting and supporting of another person by not putting undue pressure and stress on their lives.  Normally, people need to be advocated with because some injustice has been put upon them from an outside agency.  Often times, they are not able to overcome the injustice on their own and need others to come alongside them and advocate against the injustice with them.  In a way, unreasonable or misplaced expectations are a form of injustice.  They certainly put a lot of stress on people that they often cannot handle very well.  I see this in my own life, in the students I teach, the people I meet, and the family members with which I share life.  Expectations to look a certain way, feel a certain way, or accomplish significant status levels.  Many of us spend most of our time and energy trying to live up to others’ expectations,  and before we know it we have lived a life of what I would call unnecessary stress and misplaced ambitions.

Paul said in his letter to the Philippians that he had “learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (NIV).  What a remarkable statement!  Ultimately, his contentment came from having the proper view of his life and not trying to live up to expectations other’s placed on him.  He rested in his relationship with Christ, knowing Christ would give him not only his purpose in life but also the “desire and ability” to live out his purpose.  It must have been a constant battle in Paul’s life.  It certainly is in mine.  I am so encouraged by people who on the one hand accept me for who I am, and yet admonish me to live more fully into the reality of completeness in Christ.

I believe if we have the proper view and expectations of others, we will help them live their lives fully and not just exist.  Isn’t this a form of advocacy against the injustice of the evil one and our own fallen desires?  Maybe, I’m stretching the issue a bit, but sometimes I enjoy thinking out of the box and in fact probably need to do so more often.  Passive advocacy certainly isn’t an excuse to do nothing.  It is a way to help others and live out the life of Christ even when seemingly not accomplishing much in life.  It is about helping people avoid  unwisely comparing themselves with others and just accepting that we are all in the same boat—or airport.

Limitations

In his recent blog, “Should ethics be biologized?  What might that mean for eugenics?”, Dr. Paul Metzger discusses the impact of turning ethical decisions over to scientists and the medical field based mostly, or totally, on scientific understanding.  He points out the dilemma of where that might lead, especially if a form of “utilitarianism” based on economics should come about.  We certainly have reason for concern looking at history and the nature of humanity.

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I have always been interested in science and particularly biology and chemistry.  My father is a medical doctor and for a long time as a kid I wanted to be a veterinarian.  I ended up being a teacher and majoring in biology.  I took some evolution classes in college and went to a few colleges that taught Darwinian biological evolution as the explanation for the beginning of life and the diversity of life.  I grew up being taught that God created everything “ex nihilo” and that everything reproduces after its kind.  At first, as I was taught about evolution, I was guarded and also a little fearful that I would be taught something that would greatly challenge my Biblical faith.  However, I have found just the opposite to be true.  I have realized that everything that I have learned in science can fit in nicely with a belief in God and the Bible.  It really is a matter of perspective and worldview.

The origins and God debate is really for another time however.  In this case, we are talking about ethics and biology commonly called bioethics.  For instance, we can do abortions and are actually quite proficient at it, however, is there anything that tells us whether we “should” do abortions.  We know the baby (or fetus) is alive.  We know it is human.  The questions are does it have a human soul and is it deserving of rights and protection.  Even if one concedes that it is a human soul, it could be argued that it is ok to end its life if its life is deemed to be destined for suffering or simply because it cannot speak or reveal its opinion.  My faith tells me that life is given and taken by God.  I am not the author of it, He is.  Life is precious and eternal, and any decision to take a life must be made with the utmost respect, humility, and justification.  Because of that, I am rarely, if ever, in favor of an abortion.  Obviously, other factors must also be considered such as the mother, father, and future care of the baby.

I believe without a proper understanding of the sinfulness of man, bioethics will inevitably fail.  I’d love to have the view that in the end and as we “evolve” that we will make better and better decisions, and with more knowledge more ethical choices will be made.  However, I have not seen evidence for this nor do I believe it to be true.  While it definitely has its imperfections, I believe the genius of the constitution is the understanding that government must be checked and limited.  It has been said the absolute power corrupts absolutely.  This is true of humans, but not of God.  We must be checked and recognize our limitations.  We must look to Him to give us wisdom and direction.  The unlimited potential of man without God eventually leads to unparalleled evil. It is not that we collectively want that outcome or that each individual would choose it, it is just that our nature is imperfect and our desires are corrupted.  Realizing our limitations and submitting to God is the best bioethic possible.

The Advocacy of Emmanuel

Advent is upon us.  Christmas has always been a very special time for me.  I must admit, I had an idyllic childhood in many ways, including how our family celebrated Christmas.  Christmas has always included a beautiful tree, lots of presents, and a house filled with warmth and good smells.  Mom, dad, my brother and sister and I have been together for every Christmas every year of my life.  Again this year, the plan is for me to fly “home” and spend a week with my parents, my brother’s family and my sister’s family.  I’m already looking forward to my mom’s homemade chili, bread and potato salad.  Most of all, I look forward to spending time with my family and seeing old friends and celebrating together the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth many years ago.

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I realize that a majority of people will not have the kind of Christmas I just described above.  As a matter of fact, Jesus had no such Christmas celebration even though it is His birth that we are celebrating.  I do wish everybody had a warm house and a loving family to be with for Christmas.  I also wish that everyone would get at least one present they really want, eat plenty of great food, and feel safe and at peace.  I wish the sentiment expressed in Christmas songs would be realized in our world, and that there would be an experience of “peace on earth, good will to men” for all.  I know this won’t be fully realized until Christ returns again and evil is vanquished for good, but I do believe holding on to the ideal and living it out in a fallen world is important and relevant.  This “experience” must not be held onto and hoarded, but must be shared with one, two or more of the people we encounter both at Christmas and throughout the whole year.  We must be like our divine advocate, Jesus Christ—Emmanuel, and spread the reality of “God with us” through our lives, words, and ministries.

It was said about Jesus, “His name shall be called Emmanuel” meaning God with us.  He came to the earth in a most humble way, but those who understood what was happening knew something special and new was upon us.  The living, holy transcendent God of the universe, now was immanently present with us in the weakness of a baby.  After becoming an adult, he then stood with sinful humanity, experiencing all of its pains, temptations and weaknesses.  Finally, he went to the cross to suffer and pay for the sins of all humanity, and has “sit down” on the right hand of the Father and ever intercedes for us.

In Christ’s lives we see all the hallmarks of true advocacy.  He advocates with humanity not just for humanity.  He advocates at great cost to himself, never demanding the credit but always trying to glorify the Father.  He advocated with people, the disciples, and not in isolation.  He turned all of the conflict of sin and hate into a golden opportunity to provide forgiveness and reconciliation.  He did not wait and hope that somehow everything would end up working out, but he knew something must be done and he willingly did it.  The lyrics of one of my favorite Christmas songs says it well, “Long lay the world in sin and e’er pining, until he came and the soul felt its worth.  Truly he taught us to love one another.  His law is love and his gospel is peace.  Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother.  And in his name all oppression shall cease.”  Praise God, the divine advocate—Emmanuel is present.  Merry Christmas!

True Humanity

I would argue our best humanity comes out when we share life with those who are disadvantaged and need our concern and care in some way.  Think about how the vast amount of people treat young children.  They ooh and ahh and talk about how cute and innocent they are.  I realize there are those of you parents out there who can tell a myriad of horror stories of how children can cause stress, especially around the wittily-named “terrible twos.”  Nevertheless, most people when presented with a helpless child in need of protection and care will show an extremely high amount of sympathy and love.  It seems to come from somewhere deep within us and motivates us to compassion.

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I have also noticed this phenomenon when seeing how people interact with people who have down’s syndrome or other physical or mental problems that make it immediately apparent that they are in need of our care.  It is as though that since such people are not perceived as a threat or operating from ulterior motives, our guards are let down and our hearts go out to them.  This is most visible when the opposite type of reaction is observed.  When I see someone take advantage of a child or of someone with down’s syndrome or another similar condition, I can feel the anger and sense of injustice well up within me.  I see the same type of reaction in other people in such situations.  Once again, there is a “natural selection” for the weaker and more invulnerable among us.

Unlike Darwin’s natural selection and survival of the fittest among the animal kingdom, humans often see that true strength is found in caring for the weak, and the most fit among us are the ones who seek to preserve our own survival the least.  This is the life of the divine within us.  It is not natural or of this world, but it is heavenly and given from above.  The more we become like our Creator the more his divine attributes take root in our lives.  Humans are seen for the “image of God” with which we were created.  It is not that the animal or plant world is evil, for they have no will or conscience or sense of right and wrong.  They are what they are and they do what they were created for originally.  However, Scripture tells us that even the creation groans waiting to be redeemed.  However, God’s ultimate creation is His conduit to reverse this curse and exhibit proper dominion over the world.

Darwin and Dawkins explain the world as they see it largely without God’s wisdom being considered.  I am not wiser than they, but neither am I more dull.  God’s wisdom is shown through using the weak to teach the strong.  We experience his love, and we share his love most powerfully through our weakness and through relating to others in their weakness.  Just like there is fellowship in suffering with Christ, so there is fellowship in suffering with our brothers and sisters.  Only a divine life makes this possible!

Advocacy Hurts

As I have been progressing through the Advocacy section of the DMin program I am currently working on, I have been exposed through lecture, reading and conversation to the tremendous suffering and injustice occurring in our world.   From sex trafficking to slavery to abuse,  there are many dark and ugly realities in our world.  By God’s grace, I have not had to experience these kinds of atrocities personally.  I am thankful that I have been loved, respected and blessed in so many ways in my life.  I am particularly grateful for my family, friends and Christian brothers and sisters who have shared God’s love with me through meaningful and wholesome relationships.

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However, I realize now more than ever that many people in this world have not had the same love and support in life that I have had.  I have been generally aware of this, and I have met people who have had rough experiences, physical disabilities or been abused in some way, but it is hard to imagine the evil  many have endured.  I read about girls being taken and used as pawns in a sex trafficking ring.  I hear about domestic workers being abused by employers in Hong Kong from my missionary friends there.  I meet a young lady at my school who is orphaned and who would have most likely been a child sex slave if not rescued by a ministry program in India.  I also met beautiful young ladies from Nigeria who escaped from Boko Haram, which reminds me of the stories I recently read about boys in the Lord’s Resistance Army being kidnapped and forced to kill and torture others including friends or relatives.  I see pictures on facebook of my friend who is a doctor treating needy children in poverty-stricken and war-torn areas such as Bolivia, Haiti and Pakistan.  It really is too much to comprehend sometimes.

I know several people who are tremendous advocates.  My friend who ministers in inner city Chicago.  Fellow cohort members, one who works in a prison, one who works to free women from sex trafficking, one who works with abused women, one who ministers in downtown Portland, and others who advocate in many and varied ways.  I see the passion and pain they carry as they love people who are suffering.  It hurts emotionally and sometimes physically.  It causes questioning of a God of love, while at the same time drawing us closer to that same God.  It is not easy, clean or comfortable.  However, it is exactly where the God of the orphan and the widow calls.  It is exactly the heart of Jesus, the One who suffered and died for everyone including those forgotten, mistreated and abused by this world.

Philip Yancey has written about pain in his books.  I remember one concept that really spoke to me when I first read it.  He explained, using an example from lepers, how pain is actually a gift.  It shows us that something is wrong and motivates us to deal with the problem causing the pain.  I believe this is true also about advocacy.  Yes it hurts, but that is actually a gift in this fallen world.  We need to know something is wrong.  We need to be motivated to do something about it.  I need to be moved out of my love of comfort into the world of others, and especially those who are suffering.  The time when pain, suffering and injustice no longer exist will come one day, and I am longing for that time.  However, until then, we must be God’s healing hands and strong arms to those treated so inhumanely in an often cold and sinful world!  (2 Corinthians 1:4, Philippians 3:10)

Jesus–the Ultimate Advocate

“But God showed his love for us that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)  One important aspect of advocacy is to identify with those for which advocacy is being done.  It is very difficult, if not impossible, to advocate effectively from a distance.  I suppose at times, this may be the only option, but normally identifying with those being advocated for is possible.  Jesus gave us the divine example of advocacy by being willing to die for us in the midst of our sinfulness.  However, he went even a step further.  “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

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Christ’s death for us reveals so many important aspects of advocacy.  Christ operated from a place of power and authority, and ye he was willing to sacrifice himself in order to save those who are weak and helpless.  He didn’t take advantage of us or use his act of mercy to lord over us and demand our allegiance.  He willingly sacrificed himself with no strings attached and with no ulterior motives.  His love and mercy are what make him so attractive to us, and even in death he bore no grudge.  “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

Christ did not just advocate to the Father for us but he advocated with us.  He was made “sin for us.”  He became a human and “dwelt among us.”  He bore our sorrows and felt our pains and temptations.  He was not the distant “Wizard of Oz” granting us gifts while maintaining anonymity behind a curtain.  He lived a life of weakness and vulnerability culminating in the cross, and in so doing he became the perfect advocate.  Only a God fully satisfied in the loving relationships within the Trinity could “empty Himself” without any demands or bitterness and welcome any and all into the love of the Father and the Spirit.

While Jesus is much more than a divine example, I think it worthwhile to explore advocacy in light of his sacrifice of love for us.  I realize that I cannot muster through my own energies the heart required to advocate as Christ did.  I find in my own heart love mixed with fear.  Sympathy mixed with judgment.  Empathy mixed with selfishness.  I sense a desire to see “what is in this for me?” when I do acts of altruism and philanthropy.  I do not see this in Christ.  His motives are pure and his love is penetrating.  He knows my heart is divided, but he offers me a new heart through another Advocate—the Holy Spirit.

The life of a person walking in the Spirit will be one of advocacy.  It will reveal itself in a myriad of ways, some of which people might not even recognize as advocacy.  It is a life that does not need recognition or payback or promotion.  It finds joy in seeing others lifted up, even if it is lowered in the process—at least lowered in the world’s estimation.  It may be summarized best by the simple yet profound exclamation of John the Baptist as He saw the Lamb of God, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)