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Disposable People

Disposing cup

by Dennis Pollock

We live in a world where more and more of our everyday items have become disposable. When I was a little boy I used to see my Dad shaving every evening. He preferred to shave at night so that he could hurry to work in the morning with as few chores as possible. He always used a metal double-edged razor, the type which allowed you to change out the sharp, flat blades when they became dull. But the razor itself was never thrown out. Dad used it month after month and year after year.

Since those ancient days, America has become a throw-away nation. Who would ever use a “permanent” razor these days? Like nearly everyone else, I use a little plastic razor in the morning (I have never followed Dad’s shave-at-night practice), and when the razor gets dull, I simply throw it in the trash and pull another one out of my bag of a dozen razors. And when the bag is empty, the next time I go to Wal Mart I buy some more razors, and I’m good to go.

Restaurants used to serve meals in heavy bowls, and use real mugs for the coffee. Of course some still do, but millions of fast food joints have sprung up all over the world that provide us with hot breakfasts, lunches, and dinners wrapped in paper, with coffee and soda in paper or Styrofoam cups. We finish our meals, put all the trash on our tray, and empty it into the large trash containers before walking out the door. We eat with disposable knives and forks, wear disposable ten dollar watches, which we promptly trash as soon as the battery runs down, stuff our sandwiches in disposable sandwich bags, wipe our mouths with disposable napkins, quench our thirst with water in disposable bottles, and sometimes print our documents on printers so cheap, we find it more efficient to throw them away and buy another, rather than pay for overpriced ink cartridges.

Critics have suggested that our gravitation toward all things disposable is having a terrible effect upon our environment, but in this study we will look at a far more devastating aspect of the disposable phenomenon – throw-away people and relationships.

All about Relationships

Those who experience new life in Jesus Christ quickly discover that God is all about relationships. Contained within Jesus’ two great commands, to love God with all our heart and to love our neighbor as ourselves, is the concept of relationships. Although some people don’t seem to get this, the truth is that there is no such thing as love without relationship. I have seen singing competitions on television with someone from the audience shouting to the contestant: “We love you!” The contestant will usually smile and reply, “I love you too!” But of course this is nonsense. The audience member and the singer have never met each other, and have no relationship at all. Love between them is not remotely possible. We may love the way someone sings, and find their looks or their personality attractive, but to call this love is absurd. Where there has been no conversation, where people have never eaten together, laughed together, had agreements and disagreements, and made plans for future events and outings, love is nothing more than a word.

We live in a huge world, filled with billions of inhabitants. We cannot possibly know all these people or love them, except in a very hypothetical sense. Within all these masses, however, there are a very tiny percent that we get to know beyond the level of acquaintance. And with just a few of these folks we have the chance to know them really well and form deep and lasting relationships. Primary among these would be the people with which we live. Our spouses, our children, or any others that may sleep under the same roof as we do, eat at the same table, sit on the same couch, and watch the same television – these usually make up our closest relationships. From there we have brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, grandchildren, friends, co-workers, and so forth. We will relate to many of these people for the rest of our lives – or at least we should.

The problem is that far too often we treat people pretty much the same way we treat the paper cups that hold our coffee. We throw them away when they no longer seem to be of much use. In life we face many opportunities for failure: failure at our jobs, failure in our businesses, failure to live up to the goals we set for ourselves in our youth. But the greatest of all failures is the failure of broken relationships – relationships where the lines of communication have been drastically and permanently severed. This would include marriages which have been dissolved through the moral epidemic of divorce, parents who no longer talk to their children and children who never call or visit their parents, brothers and sisters who haven’t seen or spoken to each other in years or decades, and friends who used to confide in each other on the most intimate levels, now never talking, never calling, and trying hard never to think of one another. We justify our actions by telling ourselves that we have “moved on” when in truth we have simply given up.

Marriage

MarriageThe most intimate, most challenging, most rewarding, and sometimes the most painful of all relationships is the marriage relationship. For most of earth’s history, marriages were for life. There were a few good marriages, lots of mediocre marriages, some terrible ones, but divorce, which represents the total failure of a marriage, was pretty rare. It has only been in the last couple of generations when divorce went from rare to common, and ultimately to our current state of being normal, shameless, guiltless, simple, and easy. If Mr. Right starts acting like Mr. Wrong for more than a few days, cut him loose, and go find your true Mr. Right. And if the next Mr. Right does the same, repeat steps A and B. Eventually you’ll surely find Mr. Really Right, or else you’ll get so old and tired that you won’t care anymore, and you’ll settle for Mr. Not-so-bad.

God, who knows our hearts, anticipated our eagerness to look for an escape clause, and has made it clear in His word that once the vows have been exchanged and the physical intimacy begun, the exit door is shut, sealed, and double bolted. In just the second chapter of the first book of the Bible we read that “a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” This speaks of the permanent union of a man and a woman who agree to live together, work together, play together, laugh together, and cry together “as long as we both shall live.” Jesus confirmed this, capsulizing His view on the matter with the words: “What God has joined together let not man separate” (Mark 10:9). Sexual unfaithfulness was the only reason He allowed for legitimizing divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:9).

This is about as far away from current American attitudes and practices as it is possible to get. Two terms couples have traditionally used in their divorce papers are “irreconcilable differences” and “irretrievably broken.” What these really mean is that at least one person has entered marriage with stars in their eyes, only to wake up to reality in a short time with a terrible revelation. The person they married has some significant flaws; in fact he or she has some aspects of their personality that are downright unpleasant. The other party has nobly tried to fix these flaws and correct the blemishes, but it has turned out to be an impossible task. Their spouses show every evidence that they will live out their lives and go to their graves with these “issues,” and this was not something they signed up for. These “irreconcilable differences” are just too much of a burden, and divorce is the only solution. Another marriage bites the dust; another man or woman has been thrown into the trash bin. Time for a new and improved model! In some cases it is not even some major irritation. One spouse simply decides that they have “grown apart” over the years, which is code for “I don’t feel for him or her like I used to, and I want to give it another try with someone more exciting.”

Throwaways

All over our nation there are millions of people eating, shopping, driving, and working, who are throwaways. At the beginning, the pain is the most severe psychological agony the human mind ever has to endure. In time it will dull, but short of divine healing, it will never entirely leave them.

bottles in trash bagBut this is not a phenomenon we see only in the realm of marriage. It happens between close relations of all sorts. The trouble with close relationships is that our frequent interactions create innumerable areas of potential conflict. If we go to the baseball game and sit beside a total stranger, we may say a few things to them over the course of the game, but it is unlikely we will get involved in some fierce argument, and end up screaming at each other. We don’t expect much from them and they expect little from us. We exchange a few words, cheer our team, leave the stadium at the game’s end, and never expect to see them again.

But with relatives, co-workers, and close friends it is entirely different. We do see them again and again. We talk with them all the time. We discuss and debate, we kid them and they us. We feel comfortable enough with them to disagree when we feel they are wrong, and to strongly disagree when we feel they are way off base. And sometimes, when the conflict reaches a fever pitch, we withdraw. We stop talking and we stop seeing them. Sometimes we realize that we are being silly, and resume the relationship. But in some cases we don’t try, and they don’t either. A month passes, two months, six months, a year, two years… And if we are not careful we find that we have turned our brother, sister, son, daughter, friend, or neighbor into a disposable person. Like the Styrofoam coffee cup that is empty, we have thrown them away, never to be retrieved.

Patience and Forgiveness

Our Heavenly Father is not pleased. Again and again He tells us to bear with each other, and to endure the annoying ways, habits, and attitudes of those He has placed in our lives:

  1. Walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love… (Ephesians 4:2)
  2. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32)
  3. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:12, 13)


Rather than destroy relationships when problems arrive, Christ calls us to tenderly bear with that person in humility, and by all means preserve the relationship. Sometimes Christians, knowing that Christ calls us to forgive, will say to themselves: “I forgive this person, but I don’t ever plan to call them or see them again.” It is amazing how we can justify our disobedience! Here we have the unforgiving forgiver, the one who breaks relationships all the while professing their forgiveness and Christian love. Any forgiveness which refuses to ever have anything to do with the person you claim you have forgiven is no forgiveness at all.

Aren’t you glad God doesn’t treat us that way! We have all broken relationship with our holy Creator; we have offended Him in our words, deeds, and attitudes. Still, in divine humility Christ reaches out to us, offering forgiveness and the restoration of the fellowship that God desires with His stumbling, sinning, rebellious children. As Jesus died in agony on the cross, God was saying to the human race: “We can still be friends. You can be forgiven, healed, and restored to full fellowship with the One who will never reject you, never walk out on you, and never seek divorce on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” And even as Christ forgives and bears with us, He now calls us to do the same with those in our circle of friends and family who may not necessarily deserve our forgiveness, but who truly need it. And through Christ we can give it. The ultimate Forgiver lives in us.

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