Ask Bob #96: Do You Have To Have Faith To Be Healed?

Praying Hands by Otto Greiner (1869-1916)

Today’s Question: “When you have some free time, I have an Ask Bob question. When praying for someone, whose faith affects the outcome? The faith of the one praying, or the faith of the one who is prayed for?”

My Answer: Friend, I’m so very glad you asked this question! A lot of people have suffered a lot of anguish because of some common misunderstandings about the relationship between faith and prayer.

First Things First

First, a note to other readers: you need to know that I have greatly abbreviated the question. When my friend sent me this question, it was part of a longer message. The question itself was very similar to the one I’ve written above: “When praying for someone, who’s faith affects the outcome?” It seemed to be about intercession in general. However, in the rest of the message, my friend gave some clarification, and seemed especially concerned about one particular subset of intercessory prayer: namely, prayer for someone to be healed of a physical illness.

So, I toyed with the idea of writing the question to reflect that narrower focus: “Who’s faith is required for a healing prayer to be effective – the sick person’s faith, or the faith of the one who is praying for them?”

After a day of consideration, I learned that focusing only on prayers for healing would be unnecessarily restrictive. This is because God doesn’t have a different way of responding to different kinds of human needs. His response is always consistent. God’s response is born out of his love, grace, knowledge, and plan.

So, everything that follows is applicable to any sort of intercessory prayer. Some of the Biblical examples will be concerned with healing, and some will be concerned with other matters. God doesn’t change, and his response to prayer is always consistent with who he is.

About Human Mortality

Everyone dies. I’m going to die. You’re going to die. The person you love most in all the world is going to die, if they haven’t already. Intercessory prayers, prayers for healing, magic spells, incantations, potions concocted in a steaming caldron, sacrificing a chicken, healing crystals, positive energy – in short, nothing – nothing – guarantees healing. If any religion had a perfect track record of healing, the result would be immortality, and you can pretty much bet that the whole world would adopt that religion. But it isn’t going to happen. So, the first thing we need to know is this: no matter who has the faith, and no matter how much faith they have, everyone dies. No amount of faith, by anyone, guarantees healing.

“…just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment…”
(Hebrews 9:27, ESV)

So, let’s clear this up once and for all: there is no religious formula, and no sort of faith – including Christian faith – that guarantees healing. Do you understand? Healing is never guaranteed. Healing is never predictable.

That means something really, really important. It means that anyone who tells you they know the reason healing didn’t happen is either presumptuous or misinformed. They don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re speaking about things that are beyond them. Because, my friend, no matter how much faith there is in the room, and no matter whose faith it is – everyone dies.

Whose Faith Counts?

But, for those of us who live by faith, we know that faith really does matter. Faith really does affect outcomes. We’ve seen it so many times. Our experiential knowledge of prayer – for ourselves, and for others – is that it makes a difference. God has encouraged us to ask, and we have asked. We have seen results that were against all odds, results that happened in ways we didn’t expect and couldn’t predict. We have seen God change lives, both our own and others. We have seen God change hearts, and minds, and circumstances, and – yes – bodies. And so we give thanks to him, and we give testimony to others, telling them what God has done. But – whose faith did it?

Okay, first we need to establish whether or not faith was even an integral part of the equation. Because, as we see in the Bible, sometimes it’s not…

Jesus said, “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
(Matthew 5:45, ESV)

Good things can happen to people who have no faith in God at all. And sometimes, the good thing that happens is physical healing. God is good like that. It is God who designed our bodies to be, for the most part, self-maintaining and self-healing.

But, then again, there are those times when healing would not occur without prayer.

“Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick.”
(James 5:14-15, ESV)

From just the brief snippet of James 5 that’s quoted above, we might conclude that the statement is ambiguous. Maybe the sick person is praying with the church elders. Maybe the sick person’s prayer was the essential ingredient, right? But a reading of the full passage in its context shows that James is talking about the faith of the elders. If it was your faith that resulted in your healing, then why call the elders at all? If we considered only this passage, we might conclude that the faith of the one who is praying is the faith that matters.

But still, there are some pesky passages we have to deal with, like this one that can be found in both Mark and Luke:

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34, ESV, and see the parallel passage in Luke 8:48)

And the other one:

Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers

On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11-19, ESV)

So, let’s take a look at both of these situations.

First, the woman with the continual bleeding (Mark 5 and Luke 8): Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well.” But, notice something else: in the context of our question, this passage isn’t even relevant. Why? Because no one prayed! This passage isn’t even about prayer. So, how did the woman’s faith lead to her healing? Because she reached out and touched the hem of Jesus’ robe. She had the faith to come to Jesus. Faith to come to Jesus isn’t a magic key to healing. Remember, mortality is one hundred percent certain; healing isn’t. Even though she had faith to come to Jesus – which caused Jesus to say, “Your faith has made you well” – she wasn’t healed directly as a result of her faith. She was healed by the will and power of God.

Now, it’s going to look like I’m reversing myself, but stay with me here, and this will all be consistent. I said that the story of this woman’s healing isn’t relevant to our question because it’s not a story about someone who prayed for healing. But it is a story about faith and healing, so even though it’s not about prayer, we can make it relevant by extension. I’ll try to explain. You see, you and I don’t have the luxury of walking up behind Jesus and touching the hem of his robe. But we can still come to Jesus, just as this woman did. We do this today by prayer. We can come to God in prayer and ask for healing for ourselves or others.

The person with no faith will say, “I’m not going to pray for healing. That’s pointless.”

The person with faith will say, “I’m going to pray for healing, even though I don’t know how God will answer.”

And so, by coming to God – by praying – you, or the person you prayed for, may be healed, if it’s in God’s plan.

God has no obligation. God doesn’t say, “Oh, this person prayed in faith, so I have no choice but to heal.”

Do you see? When Jesus said, “Your faith has made you well,” he didn’t mean, “Wow! Your faith is so powerful that I must heal!” Rather, he said, “You came to me. Well done. If you had not decided to come to me, you would never have been healed. But you came to me!”

This is the woman’s faith. It’s not faith that crosses some invisible line, faith that’s greater than some measurable threshold, faith that triggers a predictable response from our sometimes unpredictable God. No. It’s just faith to come. And still, today, the one who is willing to come to God, to ask for healing, for himself, for herself, or for someone else – this one has enough faith to heal and be healed. This one, we may say, touches the hem of Jesus’ robe. But that measure of faith – faith to come to God – is never God’s deciding factor in whether to heal or not.

Second, the ten lepers (Luke 17): these ten came to Jesus, and they did ask: “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” Oh. Wait. We’ve answered the question, haven’t we? This situation is really no different than the situation with the woman with the continual bleeding, is it? Jesus said the same thing to them: “Your faith has made you well.” But it was neither some measurable quantity of faith, nor any particular measure of gratitude, that caused them to be healed. They, like the woman, were healed by the will and power of God. Their faith was faith to come. Not faith of a specific weight, or volume, or mass, or purity.

Just faith to come. Just faith to ask.

Okay, let’s move on. Here are some more examples. Some of them have to do with healing, and some of them are about other kinds of intercession.

Example #1 (Old Testament)

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
(II Kings 6:15-17, ESV)

Elisha prayed for his servant, who clearly didn’t have the faith to do anything. The servant received the blessing of the prayer, even though lacking faith.

Example #2 (New Testament)

Soon afterward he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.
(Luke 7:11-15, ESV)

The man was dead. It wasn’t about his faith at all. It didn’t even involve his mother’s faith. Remember this story, if someone ever says to you, “(S)he didn’t have enough faith to be healed.”

Example #3 (Old Testament)

In I Kings 18:41-45, you can read the story of Elijah praying for rain after a long drought. God answered his prayer. (In fact, God is the one who told Elijah when to pray for the rain to begin. There’s an entirely different lesson in this fact, but that’s for another time). Do you see? It had nothing to do with the faith of the ones who received the blessing. The rain came because of the faith of the intercessor. Remember this story, if someone ever says to you, “(S)he didn’t have enough faith.”

Example #4 (New Testament)

Now in the neighborhood of that place were lands belonging to the chief man of the island, named Publius, who received us and entertained us hospitably for three days. It happened that the father of Publius lay sick with fever and dysentery. And Paul visited him and prayed, and putting his hands on him, healed him.
(Acts 28:7-8, ESV)

This is another example where the faith that mattered was the faith of Paul – the one who prayed – and not the faith of the one who was prayed for. If you read this passage in its larger context, you’ll see that the people of the island had never heard of Jesus. They weren’t Christians. The healing happened shortly after Paul and his friends arrived on the island. Luke, who wrote about this event, gives all credit to Paul, and doesn’t indicate any faith at all on the part of Publius’ father.

A Final Passage to Consider

There is one more passage in the Bible that I must address, because faith healers refer to it so often. Many faith healers try to “save face” if healing doesn’t happen. Instead of simply saying, “Sometimes God heals, and sometimes he doesn’t,” they feel compelled to offer an explanation. (News flash: God only explains himself when he has a good reason. God does a lot of things without explaining himself). And so, in order to save face and offer some sort of explanation, faith healers frequently point to Acts 14.

Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well, said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking.
(Acts 14:8-10, ESV)

Listen to me: if a modern-day faith healer wants to use this passage to explain why some people aren’t healed, they clearly don’t know what they’re doing. Look at it. Read it. Paul saw that he had faith to be made well. If Paul hadn’t seen something, he wouldn’t have told the man to stand up. Do you understand? If the modern faith healer uses this passage – and fails to heal – then that faith healer is admitting that they can’t see faith. Then, instead of blaming themselves for being blind to when God wants them to heal and when he doesn’t, they blame the one who is crippled or sick. Instead of admitting, “I tried to heal when I wasn’t supposed to,” they say, “Oh, you weren’t healed because you don’t have enough faith.”

Summary

  1. No amount of faith, by anyone, guarantees healing.
  2. There is no measurable quantity of faith that can force God to heal.
  3. Everyone dies. God’s answer to prayers for healing is sometimes “No,” and it doesn’t matter how much faith anyone has.
  4. It is always noble to pray for someone. Always!
  5. Some blessings – healing or otherwise – will not occur unless someone prays.
  6. God may heal even if no one prays, because God is good to all and he has made our bodies to be self-healing.
  7. Faith for healing is faith to come to God. You may have this faith yourself, or someone may come to God in prayer on your behalf.
  8. The person who blames you for a lack of faith is usually just misinformed. They haven’t been taught correctly about the things of God. On rare occasions, where they seek to profit from healing, such a person may be a deceiver.
  9. Be brave. Be a fool for Christ. Pray for healing for others. Pray, asking God for blessings for others. Pray publicly, loudly, boldly, often. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV). There are no guarantees. God is sovereign, and you are not. But pray, as Jesus encouraged you to pray, and watch as God changes your world.

 

–Bob Young
10/15/2017

Books by Bob Young
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Worry Is Not A Sin

(This is a copy of an email to a friend on 30 September, 2017).

You asked me to send you the reference for a Bible verse I mentioned last Thursday. Here’s the passage:

“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (II Corinthians 11:28, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Let’s compare this with another place where Paul uses the same word:

“do not be anxious about anything…” (Philippians 4:6, ESV)

In the NIV it reads, “Do not be anxious about anything…” which is exactly the same.

Now, let’s look at the Greek:

II Corinthians 11:28 – μέριμνα (English transliteration: merimna, mare – im – nah

Philippians 4:6 – μεριμνᾶτε (English transliteration: merimnate, mare – im – nah – tay

In spite of what the NIV has done with the English translation, the words translated “anxious” and “concern” in these two verses come from the same Greek root. I’m not criticizing the NIV; I love it. This is why it’s valuable for us to study more than one version of God’s Word. I hadn’t noticed Paul’s complete teaching on anxiety, or anxiousness, until I got an ESV Bible a few years ago. Then, II Corinthians 11:28 took me by surprise and caused me to dig deeper. Even though I took two years of New Testament Greek at Northwest Christian University, I hadn’t noticed this.

I love the fact that Paul admits to anxiety or worry. It helps us realize that Philippians 4:6 is intended to be a word of encouragement, and not a command. This realization makes Paul’s teaching more consistent with the strengthening word of angels when they said, “Fear not.” It is not condemnation; it is comfort and power.

Satan tries to use worry as a wedge to separate us from God, but God intends worry to be a magnet that pulls us toward Him.

–Bob Young
[9/30/2017]

Now, go buy a book! (And if you’ve already bought one, write a review).
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Did You Think It Would Be Easy?

The Harvest, by Bob Young

Can two contradictory things be true? Probably not. Can we see a contradiction where none exists? That’s more likely.

The Apostle Paul made two seemingly contradictory assertions in the same sentence:

But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
(I Corinthians 16:8-9)

Wait, what? Ask him with me: “Paul, how can your work be effective if you have many adversaries? I mean, if your work is effective, doesn’t that mean everyone is convinced by your preaching? Aren’t you becoming famous? Aren’t you popular?”

But, when we stop and think it through, we realize that Paul understands the reality of Christian service. Take Jesus, for example. Jesus was effective – many lives were being transformed.

Zacchaeus said, “If I have defrauded anyone of anything, I [now] restore it fourfold.” (Luke 19:8)

Zacchaeus was a changed man, and it was because Jesus was doing effective work. But at the same time, Jesus was accumulating a long list of adversaries, including some very powerful people.

Sometimes, you only have one adversary (Satan), and the difficulties show up as circumstances, rather than as people. As an example, consider the trouble-upon-trouble experienced by Job.

Christian, here is the Satanic delusion: You may be tempted to think that, because of adversaries or trials, your work isn’t effective.

The reality – experienced by Jesus, Paul, and many others – is that effective work generates opposition.

When that happens to you, what should you do? Do what Paul did: stay in Ephesus. Stick it out. See it through. Bring your work to completion. Don’t give up. Don’t stop. Don’t lose faith. Don’t lose hope.

Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.
(I Corinthians 16:13-14)

Listen to Paul’s encouragement: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

–Bob Young
[16 September 2017]

Now, go buy a book!
Books by Bob Young
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When Fear Surrounds

Have you ever been to Space Mountain at Disneyland? Basically, it’s a rollercoaster ride in the dark. There are some pinpoints of light (stars), but the whole experience is designed to be disorienting. Up, down, right, left, tummy-turning, yell-inspiring, fear-inducing, exciting. For some people, it can be scary. For other people, it’s just fun. The difference? It has to do with how you face the unknown.

It occurred to me that Space Mountain is a great allegory of our walk with God. Life can be crazy scary at times. We can’t see what’s ahead of us, and our feeling may be one of falling, falling, falling – and we’re afraid that we’re about to crash.

But it doesn’t have to be scary. If we trust the creator of the ride, we know – we KNOW – that we’re going to come out of the ride okay. We’re going to end up safely in a comfortable and familiar place.

Does God have you on a fast ride through dark and scary places? Well, God loves you, you know. He’ll bring you through this.

–Bob Young
14 September, 2017

Now, go buy a book!
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Ask Bob #95: Which Comes First?

Today’s Question: “Bob, there’s something I’ve been contemplating lately. Which comes first: repentance or forgiveness?”

My Answer: [Said with a delighted smile] Oh, Friend, you enjoy the hard questions, don’t you? Very well, I’ll enjoy the answering of it!

To begin, I’ll ask you a question: which comes first: the ocean, or the rain-filled clouds?

Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

And so it is with repentance and forgiveness. There is no cause for one without the other. The two spring into being, fully formed, at the same instant. Or, at least, we must say, “Only God knows.”

But here, let me give you a harder answer, a more detailed answer. To do so, we must first be clear about why the question seems so hard to us. The question seems complicated because we equate repentance with changed behavior, and if we don’t see obvious, visible signs of changed behavior, we take it upon ourselves to conclude that there hasn’t been any real repentance, and thus, there can’t have been any real forgiveness.

In a moment, I’ll show you why our human efforts at validating changed behavior will always fall short. Before that, though, I’ll take a moment to explain why this question is even a cause of controversy in the church.

Argument #1: “Repentance comes before forgiveness.”

There are scriptures which, if taken by themselves, support this position. For example:

 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
(Acts 2:37-38, ESV)

Well, that seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? “Repent…for forgiveness.”

But, on the other hand…

Argument #2: “Our knowledge of forgiveness leads us to repentance.”

The Bible turns everything upside down. Jesus forgave the ones who crucified him, and they hadn’t repented.

And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
(Luke 23:33-34, ESV)

And, of course, there’s that pesky thief on the cross, who may have repented, but had absolutely no opportunity to prove to us judgmental types that he had any changed behavior.

And he [Jesus] said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
(Luke 23:43, ESV)

Jesus, you see, doesn’t need to see our behavior to know what’s really going on in our hearts.

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?
(Matthew 9:4, ESV)

So, where does that leave us? On the one hand, there are passages that speak of repentance followed by forgiveness. On the other hand, Jesus has the audacity (and the authority!) to forgive without any repentance at all (for example, the people who gleefully crucified him).

Okay, now it’s time to back up a bit. Earlier, I wrote, “I’ll show you why our human efforts at validating changed behavior will always fall short.” Now it’s time for me to make good on that promise. To do so, I’ll tell you a story…

The Parable of the New York Prostitute

There was a prostitute in New York City who had a young daughter, a toddler. One day she met a Christian woman who helped her get a job as a clerk in her bookstore. She was able to leave prostitution behind and earn a living from selling books. In the course of time, she also learned about the love of Jesus from the Christian woman, and became a follower of Jesus herself. She had hated herself for her former life of prostitution, and worried about the effect it would have on her young daughter. She found great joy in her relationship with God and the sense of forgiveness that she had obtained. But in the course of time, the sale of books on the Internet increased, and the sale of paper books at the bookstore declined. Finally, the bookstore closed, and she was unemployed. She looked for another job, but didn’t find one right away. The rent on her apartment was due in four days, and she was already two months behind. She knew that she would be evicted soon. So, she did the only thing she knew to make some money. She turned again to prostitution, and was able to pay the back rent and buy some food. But a woman from the church saw her get into a car with a man and reported to the Elders, “She has been fooling us! She isn’t a Christian at all!” Then the Elders went to her apartment and asked her not to return to their church.

Do you see? A penitent heart sometimes occurs a long time before we see changed behavior. And sometimes the changes in our behavior are more like a yo-yo than an arrow. This happens when we want to change, but don’t see how we can change.

But God takes a different view of your life. In fact, God has a different view on all of time. You must understand: God already sees who you will be, not just who you are.

For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning.
(Isaiah 46:9-10, ESV)

Did you get that? God declares the end from the beginning.

In the first chapter of John’s Revelation, God said,

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:8, ESV)

And in the last chapter of John’s Revelation, Jesus said,

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
(Revelation 22:13, ESV)

God knows your heart, and he knows all time. That is why repentance and forgiveness, like clouds and ocean, exist together, rather than in any sequence.

This article is getting long, but please indulge me while I tell you another story.

I have vivid memories of a “relationship challenge” when I was a teenager. I had gotten in trouble, and I was sitting in the living room with Mom and Dad. The three of us were discussing what I had done wrong. The discussion was almost over. It was late, and time for everyone to go get ready for bed. I hesitated. Mom picked up on my reluctance to leave, and said, “What is it?” Barely able to hold back the tears, I looked at both of my parents as I asked, “Am I forgiven?”

They both assured me that yes, I was indeed forgiven. They told me that we can leave this in the past, learn from it, and go forward.

The point I want to make with the story is this: my mother loved me no less before, and no more after, that night of understanding. The difference was not in her love for me, but in the quality of our relationship. Now, we could commune without sin’s hindrance.

Let me give you an example of communing without sin’s hindrance.

We lived just a couple of blocks from the high school. Every day at noon I walked home from the school, and my Dad (a Pastor) drove home from the church, and we had lunch together. We made sandwiches, sat across the kitchen table from each other with a chess board between us, and played a game or two of chess as we ate.

Now, imagine the day after that conversation in the living room, if I had not known that my Dad had forgiven me. The chess game at lunchtime would have been agony! There I would have been sitting across the table from the man who (in my mind) despised me, going through the motions of familial love. I would have sat there, imagining his smoldering resentment, or bitter scorn.

It is important to forgive. It’s also important to know that you’re forgiven.

Time does not heal all wounds. Time buries wounds. It doesn’t heal them.

Time does not heal all wounds of offense. Forgiveness does. This is why repentance and forgiveness matter. Take the healing, the new life, that Jesus has prepared for you.

–Bob Young
10 September, 2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

Interested in having me speak? It’s easy! Click on the “Schedule Me To Speak” link at the top to find out more.

What if God…?

What if your Creator only desires the best and highest for you?
What if all religious perversion of the best and highest springs from human misunderstanding, and doesn’t come from God?
Would you trust God then?
Would you love God, your Creator, as God loves you?

Your brokenness can be repaired.
Your loneliness can be replaced with companionship.
Your despair can turn to hope.
Your fear can give way to courage.
Your bitterness can melt away.
Your load can be lifted.
Your heart – your heart! – can be made new.

Because, yes – your Creator only desires the best and highest for you.

–Bob Young
5 September, 2017

Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

It’s Not Easy Being Black

After giving this article the title, “It’s Not Easy Being Black,” the first thing I’d better say is, I’m white. My ancestors are from Scotland, Ireland, England, and Holland. So, I have no experience with being black. And yet, after sixty-two years on this planet, I do have a few observations about life, and one of them is this: it’s not easy being black in America.

Today I posted this observation on Facebook. “It’s not easy being black in America.”

Before I clicked to apply the post, I already knew what the reactions would be. Some posted their reactions, most didn’t – but I know what the whole range of responses was. Some people nodded their heads sadly and agreed. Some people shook their heads and said, “Why does Bob post stuff like that?” Some people said, “How would Bob know? He’s not black. Why doesn’t he stick to topics he can speak about with real knowledge and experience?” Some people said, “Oh, great. There’s a white guy who thinks he’s helping us all by expressing sympathy, but what he says doesn’t change one little thing. Maybe his conscience feels better.” Some people said, “Well, it’s not easy being me, either. What about my problems? Why single out one group? There are lots of us with problems.”

Yes. You’re right. There are lots of us with problems.

And yet, there is a reason, right now, in America, why a white person (that would be me) needs to write a public article pointing out the obvious. There is a reason to single out one group out of all the groups with problems. There is a compelling moral need, right now, to talk about the specific problem, the painful reality, of being black in America.

It’s like this.

It’s hard to be fat.
But it’s harder to be fat and black.

It’s hard to be old.
But it’s harder to be old and black.

It’s hard to be female.
But it’s harder to be female and black.

It’s hard to be autistic.
But it’s harder to be autistic and black.

It’s hard to be poor.
But it’s harder to be poor and black.

It’s hard to be LGBT.
But it’s harder to be LGBT and black.

It’s hard to be unemployed.
But it’s harder to be unemployed and black.

It’s hard to be uneducated.
But it’s harder to be uneducated and black.

It’s hard to have cancer.
But it’s harder to have cancer and be black.

Honestly, I don’t know if I would be successful as a black. And by successful, I mean doing what I’m doing now – faithfully following Jesus, my Lord. I know that I would be severely tempted to fall into one of two traps.

Trap #1: On the one hand, it’s possible that I might just give up. The struggle might be too much for me. I might become a silent failure, sinking as deeply as possible into the dark background of America, rarely seen, rarely heard. My defeat, my resignation, would have logical and predictable outcomes. If I gave up, I would spend a lot of time being unemployed, receiving whatever handouts I could get from the government or individuals. I might console myself, numb the pain, and forget my problems, by turning to alcohol, drugs, or both.

Trap #2: On the other hand, there is that part of me that has learned to stand up for myself, to fight, to flail my arms wildly against all attackers, real or imaginary. There is something in me that says, “I would rather be punished for fighting back than sit quietly and accept mistreatment that I don’t deserve. If anyone is going to hurt me, by golly, I’ll give them a reason!” I can see myself becoming violent, bitter, full of fomenting hatred, ready to explode every time the smallest spark ignites my short, fast, fuse.

I stand in awe of the sheer nobility that I see in many black people. They are the ones who avoid the two extremes that I fear would grip me. They are the blacks who are simply, plainly, kind to me. I don’t mean quietly subservient. I mean genuinely nice. These are the blacks who extend their warm friendship to me from the moment of first meeting, before they know how their friendship will be received. These are the blacks who take a chance, with every new encounter, even several times a day, choosing to initiate their interactions with every new person they meet with a positive regard and with an optimism about the relationship that might develop.

I’m not sure I’m that strong.

But I’ll do what I can. I’ll follow Jesus, and I’ll regard you as Jesus regards you, no matter who you are. And I’ll speak. I’ll speak out, because Jesus speaks out. I’ll speak, because silence in the face of evil, is evil.

–Bob Young
[8/14/2017]

Bob has a few books available at Amazon. You should buy one!
Books by Bob Young
http://www.amazon.com/author/bobyoung

 

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