Dean Kuest – Glendale Campus Pastor
“Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.’” – Daniel 3:16-18
Earlier this month, I read a headline that made my heart jump. If the names of Atticus, Jem and Scout are securely ensconced in your fictional repertoire, perhaps you had a similar reaction. A missing manuscript had been found and is headed to the publisher for release sometime this summer. The book is a sequel to Harper Lee’s only published work, “To Kill a Mockingbird” which has been immovably perched at the crest of my all-time favorite works of fiction ever since Mrs. Beals handed me a copy in my junior year of high school.
Knowing I would read the sequel this summer, I decided to re-re-re-re-read my copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” to freshen my memory. If you are unfamiliar with the book, the quickest way to bring you up to speed without spoilers would simply be to say that it focuses on three years in the life of the Finch family, living in a small town in the deep south of Alabama, years before the Civil Rights movement was in motion. Atticus, a lawyer in his late 50’s, is a single father raising a son, Jem, and a young daughter, Scout, through whose eyes the book is written.
One of my boys asked me why I this was my favorite book and why I have read it so many times. It took me a while to think through my answer, but when it formulated, it came out something like this, “Atticus Finch makes me want to be a better person.”
Again, without spoilers, the book surrounds a decision that Atticus makes to represent a freed slave, named Tom Robinson, in a small town court case because of his conviction that everyone deserves a fair trial. It is Atticus’ strength of conviction that makes him one of my favorite characters. His decision is not popular, it is not good for his law practice, and it made life painful for his children, but the lens through which he saw the world would not allow him to take the easy road. Here is how he explains it to his third grade daughter…
“…the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down – well, all I can say is, when you and Jem are grown, maybe you’ll look back on this with some compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down. This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience – Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”
When Scout tries to tell her father that he must be wrong because the great majority of people seem to disagree with his decision, he gently explains…
“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”
Atticus’ actions along with these types of conversation, light a spark in his children that become a flame of their own convictions. These are also points in the novel where I have to close the book and ask myself some hard questions. Do I live with a strength of conviction like that? One where would I could not call myself a follower of Jesus if I did not live in a certain way? Would I be willing to put my family through pain and difficulty because of that conviction? Our world needs just a spark of that kind of conviction, rooted in truth and reality of God’s redemptive plan. My family needs that type of conviction. So does yours. What will that look like for you?