THE DIGNITY AND VALUE OF EVERY PERSON
“Don’t ever tell anyone that I discipled you. You never get your assignments done and you are lazy”. Though spoken gently and with a smile, these words from my mouth could not be described as gracious. Could they be the kind that the bible describes as “unwholesome” in Ephesians 4:29? Freddie laughed it off. Freddie had been part of a men’s group I had led for two years. He often arrived late for the early morning meetings with his assignments half done. Then he would proceed to ask a lot of questions. The questions were not always from the study though they were very good questions. I battled within – at times thinking of releasing him from the study, and then I would think to myself… “He must be learning something. He keeps coming!”
One Monday morning Freddie called me. “Stan, you are right. I am lazy”, he said. He went on to explain how he had taken a church youth group to an overnight camp on Saturday. On Sunday morning he asked his colleague what the plans were for the morning devotion. He had forgotten that he was the one giving the
devotion! With less than 10 minutes to get ready, Freddie was embarrassed. This experience jolted him back to his senses. He made up his mind to take his assignments seriously.
Freddie’s marriage with Lauren was on the rocks. In working with them, I had to draw on all the objectivity I could muster to not think that Freddie was (always) the source of their marital issues. He appreciated my objectivity. For a whole year I did not see Freddie formally but bumped into him in social settings. He was always warm towards me and he and Lauren continued supporting our ministry financially. Early 2015, Freddie called me. He was thirsty for the Lord and wanted us to meet.
We met weekly for a year. He kept time and did his assignments. Something had happened to the man. From time to time he would reflect on how lazy he had been when I first started disciplining him. Each time he mentioned it, he would apologize.
At the end of 2015, I asked Freddie and Lauren if they could walk with two young couples. They were delighted. I met Freddie last month. He was beaming. He had a fantastic report about the couples they had been meeting for the past year. He was full of praise to God for the transformation he was experiencing in his own life and in the lives of the couples they were ministering to. He talked passionately about the burden the Lord had laid on his heart about ministry in the market place – where people spend the bulk of their day. Then he leaned forward and looked me straight in the eye and said – If you had not invested in me, I would have nothing to give to others. I had to fight back the tears. As I reflected back on my days with Freddie, the Lord brought to mind his conversation with Philip in John 14. The Lord was winding up his ministry for that season.
He was revealing himself to the disciples and talking plainly about things they knew little about. He was talking to men who had literally spent three years with him and had a chance over the years to know him intimately. I’m sure the questions they asked him made him wonder how much they really understood who he was and the purpose of his coming. Philip had asked the Lord to show them the Father! The Lord had responded “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? If you have seen me you have seen the Father” The Lord responded to each of these “foolish” questions with grace and truth while preserving the value of the individual.
It would have been easy for the Lord to give up on Philip and others on account of their questions. Fast forward to Acts Chapter 8. This is the same Philip (I think) who received a special message from the Lord that connected him to the Ethiopian eunuch. Starting with the passage the eunuch was reading, Philip explained the gospel and led him to Christ. He knew the scriptures! What lessons did I learn from the Lord as I worked with Freddie and watched the Lord work with Philip?
- Every person has value, therefore pay close attention to the flock God has given you. (1 Peter 5:2)
- Relationships experience challenges and expose sins. But we are commanded to “Love each other deeply because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
- Do not underestimate what God can do with a life. If he has not given up on you don’t give up too quickly on those He has given you – even when they are stubborn (think of Jonah) or ask many questions.
- Pray for people often. Jesus did (John 17), Paul did (Ephesians 1) and so should you. God does more with people when we pray for them than when we just meet with them.
- Keep sowing the seed of God’s word. The greatest fruit can come from individuals you least expect.
- Story shared with Freddie’s permission
Dr. Stanley Mukolwe