Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
I was sitting in a medical exam room a few weeks ago, waiting for someone to come and get me for an outpatient procedure. While I waited, I went over in my mind the medical disclaimers I had just signed and initialed.
I heard recently that for every practicing physician there are 13 other people working behind the scenes, taking care of an ocean of regulations. I wondered how many of the 13 are directly related to writing and compiling disclaimers. It occurred to me that every possible outcome but the desired one was listed. Everything was catalogued, from death to chronic ingrown toenails, none of which appeared to have much to do with why I went to the doctor in the first place.
That caused me to ponder what if life itself had disclaimers? Periodically, at various junctures in life, what if we had a list to sign, saying we had an understanding of the probability of certain potential dangers in proceeding? I cannot find any hard evidence for preexistence, so we can’t blame God that we were even born, but that complaint has been around for some time. So then, where would those points of review and warning come in?
In Hebrew history and in scripture, there is a concept of “age of accountability,” where a person is old enough to know right from wrong. While never defined in the Bible, many scholars have suggested in the Jewish culture it was at 13 years of age when boys were held accountable for moral responsibly for their actions.
For those of us who have raised children, we might think that age should be a bit lower for individuals to have the ability to choose right from wrong. On the other side of that argument is the idea of an extended adolescence in our culture that currently is approximately in the mid 30s. If age disclaimers would be difficult to determine, how about event-related disclaimers? Before we start junior high, attend college, get married, have children or retire, all of those events have the potential for problems and outcomes other than what we imagined or hoped.
After some deliberation, I decided life disclaimers are not such a great idea and for people of faith, quite unnecessary. We could spend a lot of time with Bible Verses that speak to God’s care and provision, but that would be much too large for this article. But a few references are in order.
Just before Israel was preparing to go into the Promised Land, certainly an ideal place for a disclaimer, Moses told Joshua: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV)
I know as Christ followers, we need to be careful taking “promises” out of context. But through the lens of understanding, the very character of God that He is both loving and faithful, I think we can be confident in placing trust in the knowledge that He does not leave us in difficult places, but walks through them with us.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.