Having Your Back

Says Jesus (as recorded by John):

15”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever.17This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you. -John 14:15-17

They, and we, will have an advocate. I like that word, “advocate.” With this word I think of: someone who goes to the defense of someone else; someone you can depend on; or a great helper in times of struggle. Or better:

Someone who “has your back”

The tragedy of our world is that true advocates are so hard to find. How many people can we count on when we truly need them? How good are we at being available for those who need our support? As I think about it, I can think of people in each category…actually it is the same people in each category.

As a pastor I like to think that I am available for people when they need me. Sometimes I feel frustrated when I don’t really know what’s happening and thus can’t help. I also have to then confess that I’m not always as available as I should be. Having one another’s backs is not always easy!

I wonder if some of the problems in our nation (even world) are because we sometimes get so focussed upon what is happening in our own lives that we miss the opportunity to be advocates for others. Sometimes it’s easier to get caught up in the drama of social media than it is to really see & hear what is happening with those we care about. And then sometimes, it is through social media that we learn that maybe we can step up our advocacy.

A few weeks ago I was involved in a FB conversation…actually it was a let’s just yell at one another conversation. I started the conversation from a place of feeling offended and it devolved from there, until I listened to my own inner voice which told me nothing good could come from continuing the conversation. That inner voice in my advocate and once I left the conversation it let me to reflect on how I can move from defensiveness to advocacy.

The particular issue is very painful and all too familiar, sexual assault. This time in the military. The victim of this assault was voicing her frustration with the treatment that she received after the assault. Having heard pieces of the story over the past couple years I can’t help but think of the continued assault women (and men) must experience in the aftermath of the first assault. We seem to be seriously short of advocates…or at least enough advocates to be effective.

So what can be done? First we must continue to fight a culture in which rape is excused, tolerated, and ignored. We must teach our children (and all ages) to respect one another. We must emphasize over and over again that consent to any activity (especially sexual) cannot be given when one is under the influence of anything (or anyone). I feel as if we’ve been talking about this my entire life…and indeed the conversation, the advocacy has been going on much longer. I believe we’ve made some progress but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a long long way to go.

We must be advocates for those who have been sexually assaulted. And here dear friends is where I’ve failed. I’ve been available to listen and to pray… and there is some value here. But what is also needed is for me (and others) to publicly advocate for change, especially when our government is failing in protecting those who serve.

PS: the text tells us that Jesus gives us the advocate…so we have the power within us to have one another’s backs.

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