Summary: We are no good to anyone else unless first we have experienced cleansing. That rules out maternalistic protection or paternalistic inhibition. When we know we are cleansed, then we are useful to others.
I am beginning today a series of messages on the theme, "How He Helped Humanity." "How He Helped Humanity." The idea behind this is very simple, but it branches out in many different ways.
The basic idea is that we are working toward becoming a helping church, a servant people. But we need training in how to do this.
I don’t think there is a single hard heart in this congregation. All of us want to help people who are hurting. All of us have a desire to see needs met. The problem is how best to do it. How to help others without deepening their hurt.
The old saying has it, "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." Most of us don’t want to be fools, so we don’t rush in to help. We sort of stand around and wonder what we should do. How do you help humanity? How do you serve human need?
Someone has commented that the Bible says that Jesus went about doing good, but that most of us just go about! We don’t know how to help. We don’t know what to do.
That’s what this series is going to be about. Learning from Jesus some basic principles about helping others. Discovering from the Lord Himself how to touch others’ lives so that they can be healed.
Each week, beginning this coming Sunday, I will put a brief summary of the previous sermons in the bulletin, and by the time the month is over we should have a very useful outline. This can be a key month in shaping what we will do and be for the next several years.
So come join the 4-H club! Learning “How He Helped Humanity”!
The first lesson is this, in a nutshell: that before we can help anybody else, we have to receive something ourselves. Before we can be any good to anybody else, something has to happen to us. We cannot be effective helpers until we do some growing up and understand our own hearts.
Both Margaret and I used to supervise student summer missionaries. Student summer missionaries are college students who agree to invest a summer in some sort of ministry. Some of you know about this; we have had two or three student summer missionaries here. Well, they come at the beginning of summer all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, motivated and enthusiastic. They are going to save the world in ten weeks flat! They are going to organize children, gather up youth, visit the lonely, and put on a musical extravaganza, all in ten weeks! Some of them have so much energy and bounce you half expect them to balance the District budget and bring Newt down to earth in the very first week. But it isn’t long, usually, until they discover that things are not that easy. Problems don’t go away just because you want them to. And those students end up feeling guilty. Very guilty. Their goals have not been met. Their brash promises cannot be kept. Guilt permeates everything.
So that’s where I want to go to work today. I want to deal with the shame and guilt that we carry around and which makes it impossible for us to help others until we deal with it. The way we deal with shame and guilt I am calling "Clean All Over". Clean all over.
Listen to this story from the ministry of Jesus and pay particular attention to the last phrase in it:
John 13: 1-10a
There it is. Clean all over. We will not be helpful to anyone else until we first get clean all over. We will not be of value to anyone else until we have heard the good news for ourselves.
There are two ways that that shame expresses itself when we try to help others. I’m going to use two five-dollar words to describe the mistakes we make because we have not yet become clean all over.
One of these guilt mistakes is maternalism. And the other is paternalism. Maternalism and paternalism. Now that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are behind us, maybe we can look at these two things and why they hurt more than they help.
Maternalism is too much mothering. Maternalism says, "I’ll protect you." "I’ll keep you from getting hurt," "I’ll shield you from reality." Maternalism is not just mother love, it is smother love. It means keeping someone from facing what they need to do to help themselves. It means insulating others from hurts; it means keeping them from learning how to take responsibility for their own lives.
And that comes from guilt. Maternalism, too much mothering, comes out of not feeling secure with the temptations and trials that are all around. It works like this: if I don’t trust myself to handle temptation, then I don’t trust you either. If I think I’m too weak, then I think you are too. Maternalism really doesn’t help anybody very much.