This is post 4 of 7 in the series “RELATIONSHIP RESCUE - JESUS STYLE”
RELATIONSHIP RESCUE – JESUS STYLE: Fate May Color Our Lives But Faith Chooses The Colors
My friend, Keith Brown, shared with me the story of a little boy who, after the church service one Sunday morning, announced to His mother: “Mom, I’ve decided to become a preacher when I grow up.” The mother replied: “Well, that’s certainly a splendid thing to do, but what made you decide that?” The little boy answered: “Easy. I have to go to church on Sunday anyway, and I figure it will be more fun to stand up and yell than to sit down and listen.”
Well, I am a preacher and it is fun to “stand up here and yell”—especially when you’re standing up and yelling about something very important to you. Such is the case today. You see, I carry in my heart a great, deep loving, concern for those who are single parents. That’s why today I want to focus the light of Jesus Christ upon the challenges faced by single parents in our time. Remember please, that 90% of those single parents are mothers presiding over fatherless families, and yet, I have to acknowledge that the number of fathers who function as single parents is now increasing rather dramatically. Therefore, I got to wondering what Jesus would say to those single parents. Fortunately, we don’t have to speculate. The fact is—and you may never have thought of this—there are a lot of single parents in the Bible—too many for us to note them all. So today I want to zero in on just one of them—the woman who met Jesus at the well in Sychar. The story is told in John 4.
Jesus was traveling through the region known as Samaria and He approached the city of Sychar. He came upon a well. It was high noon. The blazing sun and the foot journey had exhausted Jesus, so He stopped at the well for a refreshing drink of water. There He encountered this woman who had been divorced five times. Now let that sink in for a moment. She had known five different men, slept in five different beds, lived in five different neighborhoods, carried five different names and related to five different sets of in-laws! Yikes! Now by the time you have gone through five husbands, there will be a whole clutch of children, each one looking like a different daddy. What was worse, in this case, was that now this woman was with a guy to whom she was not married. So as this woman approached the well, what was heaviest on her shoulders was the empty water jug, but what was heaviest on her heart was the rejection and isolation she had experienced from others. But when Jesus saw her, He saw her as a child of God. He saw her as one whom God created, one whom God loved. What I want us to see then is the way Jesus proceeded to deal with her past, her present and her future.
First, Jesus dealt with this woman’s past.
When the woman walked up to the well, the first thing Jesus did was to ask her for a drink of water. Not such a big deal, under ordinary circumstances, but if, like this woman, you have not been spoken to or accepted by other people for so long a time, then to have someone you do not know open the doorway to conversation is a startling experience. You can even hear in this woman’s response the edge of distrust. She says: “Why is that you, a Jew, would ask me, a Samaritan, for a drink?” Translation: What’s an uptown guy like you wanting from an across-the-tracks-girl like me? You see, she didn’t trust Jesus. Not at first.
But Jesus’ reply to her is absolutely incredible. I’ve had trouble all week getting the first words of His response out of my mind. He said: “If only you knew the gift God is trying to give you.” If only you knew… If only you knew that God is on your side, that God cares about you, that God wants what’s best for you. If only you knew… Do you understand that what He was saying is: “I can accept your past. In a society where everyone else has cut you off, I count you in. I want you for my own.”
Now think about that for a moment—especially if you’re a single parent, think about it. And if you’re not a single parent, then try to put yourself into the situation of a single parent. A single parent becomes a single parent in one of four ways—by death or by divorce, or by having a child outside of marriage, or by being a single person who adopts a child. Two of those four have a social stigma attached to them. Therefore, in most instances, single parents need someone to say to them: “I accept you and I accept your past.”
Carve out space in your brain for some facts you may not know. The trend of fatherless families in this country is at historic, unprecedented levels. The number of single-family parents in the U.S.—get this please—has quintupled in the last twenty years. One out of every four children now live in single-parent homes, and contrary to all of our ill-informed presuppositions, the rate is increasing fastest not among minorities, but among whites. To be sure, the dramatic number of fatherless children among minorities is ripping apart our central cities, but it is not just a minority issue. Two-thirds of all children born today will live some of their lives in a single-parent home. Shocking statistics. If nine out of ten of those single-parent homes are fatherless families, then that means that a crushing burden has fallen on the shoulders, the often weary shoulders, of single mothers.
There is a wonderful little book by Carol Pearson entitled: One On a See-Saw—the Ups and Downs of a Single-Parent Family”. You get the message very quickly. One person on a see-saw isn’t much fun. It’s a huge challenge to be a single parent, but Carol Pearson gives it a positive spin. She writes: “When I was little, people used to talk about broken homes. Now my children live in such a home, but I don’t think of it as broken. Yes, the family is stretched and cracked, but it is not broken. It still works. We are still a family.” That is so true. By the way, please don’t forget that the Bible speaks openly, clearly, repeatedly, about God’s care and concern for the single parent and for the fatherless or motherless children. Just a sampling:
- Exodus 22:22—“God will be a father to the fatherless”.
- Deuteronomy 10:18—“God provides justice, food and clothing to the fatherless.”
- Job 29:12—“God will deliver the fatherless.”
- Psalm 148:9—“The Lord upholds the fatherless”
- James 1:27—“We are to care for the fatherless.”
God cares about single parents and their children and we are to do the same.
Like the woman at the well, single parents need affirmation and acceptance. Every Sunday, when I stand at the doors of this church, lots of little children who do not have fathers at home, hug me. I don’t know that there is anything I do here that is more important than that. The single parents in those families need acceptance and affirmation too. We have many single parents in this church. I want more. I want more because I want them to know that here we accept them and love them and care for them and always will. Jesus took care of the woman’s past by accepting her!
Next, Jesus dealt with this woman’s present.
Jesus forced this woman to deal honestly and forthrightly with her situation—with her sins and shortcomings. He said to her: “Go get your husband.” She replied: “I have no husband.” Jesus said: “Right. You’ve had five husbands and the man you’re living with now is not your husband.” And in essence she replied: “Lord, my personal life is a mess.” Jesus then replied: “That’s true, but let’s deal with that together.” You see, He was encouraging her to be honest about her present circumstances, to take a hard look at her mistakes, so that with His help she would not make the same mistakes again.
Well, let us also be honest before Christ. Let’s acknowledge the fact that the increasing number of single-parent homes is due primarily to a diminished view of God’s ideal for marriage and the family. It’s a sin for which we must repent. I love the writing of syndicated columnist, Kathleen Parker. Listen to her words which appeared recently in our paper:
“What’s appalling is our mindless celebration of single motherhood at a time when fatherlessness is a national crisis. On any given day in any American city, a fatherless boy is booked on murder or a girl barely pubescent gives birth to another fatherless infant. Like morons unable to connect the numbered dots, we continue to treat each celebrity announcement of single motherhood as a virgin event.”
Well, Jesus forced the Samaritan woman to deal honestly with the painful reality of her present circumstances—and we must do the same. But notice, please, that Jesus committed Himself to work with her to turn her mistakes into what could bring glory to God—and we must do the same. You see, it’s hard for single parents to rear their children alone. We have some single parents in this church who are defying the obstacles, whose efforts are heroic, who are doing everything they can to beat the odds which are stacked against them. I applaud these single parents; I admire them; and I am grateful for them. They are doing their best to bring up their children in the faith.
But it’s hard. God set up the family because every child needs the affirmative action of both a father and a mother. Young boys need some things that a mother just can’t provide, no matter how hard she tries. Young girls need the masculine form of affection from their fathers when those big arms wrap around their little shoulders and a deep voice says: “You are my princess. You mean the world to me”—because if she doesn’t find it in the arms of her father, she might seek it in the arms of someone who doesn’t want to give, but to take.
Do you still have room for another set of facts? 80% of the teens in psychiatric hospitals are from one-parent homes; 3 out of 4 teen suicides occur in one-parent homes; 70% of teens charged with murder are from one-parent homes; exhaustive studies show that single-parent kids do less well in school.
Jesus wants us to be honest about the present. The reason single parents are so much in my heart is because of the incredible uphill battles they have to face. Jesus said to this woman at the well: “Let’s deal with your present circumstances, together.”
And then Jesus dealt with the woman’s future.
Jesus spoke to her about what God had waiting for her in the future, but she said: “I know the Messiah is coming. But that’s a long way off.” Jesus said: “I who speak to you am He.” Don’t miss this please. Jesus first revealed His Messiahship to a single mother. And she was transformed by His power. This woman then went rushing back to the city to tell everyone she knew about Jesus. No longer was she afraid or ashamed to be around other people. Wow! Think of it! The first missionary ever sent by Jesus was a single mother.
Single parents have two sources of strength. They have Christ and they have the people of Christ, the church. One of our single parents expressed it like this in a letter to me:
“Dear Dr. Edington,
I’ve been a single parent for ten years now. I have two teenage sons. My task is not easy, but the peace of God is in my heart through Jesus Christ. Yes, I continue to have overwhelming financial problems and I work two jobs, and no, I haven’t found my ‘Prince Charming’ or my ‘knight in shining armor’. But that’s ok because ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ I don’t know what I would have done without my Lord and this loving church family.”
I share that with you who are single parents so that you will not give up. Jesus Christ is adequate to the task of strengthening you for the struggles which are yours. And I share that with you who are not single parents so that you might be inspired to greater effort for our single-parent families. You see, I dream of the day when some of our people who are handy with automobile or home repairs will start a Mechanics Ministry so that when a single mom’s car breaks down or the plumbing backs up, we can dispatch some of Christ’s disciples to help. I dream of having a group of our people who will give one night a month to keep single parent’s kids here at the church to give those parents an evening out and to love and encourage their kids. I dream of a time when you fathers and mothers who are involved in a shared activity with your own children, such as camping or scouting or some other specific parent-child event would take with you a child from one of our single-parent families. If you don’t know one, give me a call. I dream of the day when committed grandparents in this church step forward to become mentors to fatherless or motherless children in our church in order to give these kids some of the things they are missing in life. Again, if you need direction, let me know. Yes, I dream of the day when we in this church fulfill the command of Scripture in James 1:27 to care for those who have no spouse and those who have no father or no mother.
Just a word now from my heart to those who are single parents…
Brian Steinberg was a student at the University of Washington. He was a champion pole-vaulter, one of the best in the world. One day while practicing on a trampoline to develop his muscles, he fell on the edge of the trampoline, severing his spinal cord. It left him paralyzed. One of his friends came to the hospital to visit him and the friend said: “Fate sure colors our lives, doesn’t it, Brian?” And Brian Steinberg quickly replied: “Yes, but faith chooses the colors.”
You have that same choice. You can choose what you want your life to be like. You can choose what you want your children to have and to be. Come to Jesus Christ in faith and come to this church in faith and we will help you to select the right colors…