Posted tagged ‘christian’

Biblical Compassion

March 23, 2009

What is a Christ-follower’s responsibility regarding compassion? What does the Bible say about it?
Lately it seems that there are about a million good causes that a Christ-follower could get involved with. They offer an entire range of opportunities from the obvious soup kitchens and food drives and global poverty initiatives, to the more personally time-consuming tutoring or hospital & prison visitation, to the more obscure projects like christian animal rescue or outreach to sex-industry workers or helping scattered Jews return to Israel.

If you’re anything like me, it can be a bit overwhelming. Where do I start? There are so many worthy causes! For myself, personally, I thought the best place for me to start was to open up the Bible and review what was there. After all, if I am going to give my time, talents, and resources to compassion ministries I want to be sure that I am at least fulfilling my Biblical responsibilities. So I’ve been researching a little while.

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What I Found
One of the first things I noticed was that God’s heart on the matter has not changed. You can find scriptural references to helping and caring for the disadvantaged in every section of the Bible – Law, Prophets, Poetry, Gospels and Letters – they all have something to say on the subject. This means God has consistently been trying to teach humanity to be givers and to have compassion for people since the beginning. There are no lame excuses allowable (ie: “well that part of the Bible only applies to the Jews”, etc.)

One thing is for certain – God is on the side of the poor. Big Time. “The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.” Proverbs 29:7. See also Isaiah 41:17.

Another thing I noticed was that it is clear that the early church, as described in Acts and Paul’s letters acted as sort of a social services agency – caring for those who had no one else to care for them. The church pooled their resources in order to care for the needs of not only the church members, but also others whom society had neglected.
[*see footnote]

So who are we talking about? Whom does the Bible say we are to care for?

The Poor. There are a TON of verses about caring for the poor. I like this verse in Luke 3 because I think it captures the proper, balanced spiritual perspective all in one verse. By that I mean that it is clear that our giving is to come from our surplus (we should take care of our immediate family needs first, and then give of our abundance.) “John [the Baptist] answered, ‘The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.'” Luke 3:11

Widows. The Bible is clear that we are to care for widows and the elderly who cannot take care of themselves. It says that the first responsibility is that an adult child should care for their own Father and Mother. (1 Timothy 5:4, 1 Timothy 5:8, Ephesians 6:2, Proverbs 23:22) If that responsibility is in neglect, then it is up to the Church to take on that responsibility. (James 1:27, 1 Timothy 5:3). In my opinion, we should also include single moms who struggle financially as widows. Certainly single moms who do not receive proper child support and help with the kids would qualify! If a man leaves his family and does not step up to his financial and parental responsibility then he may as well be dead.

Orphans. The Bible mentions orphans and the “fatherless” more times than I can count. The problem with this one is that society has changed. In Biblical times, if a child’s parents were killed and there were no grandparents or extended family to take them in, it was highly likely that the children would live on the street. There were no orphanges or foster homes then. So the church had a very real, specific need to fill there. In today’s society, the State cares for “true orphans”. So does that mean we are released from this obligation? I think we’d have a tough time just throwing these scriptures out the window. So what does a 21st century orphan look like and how would we care for them? That question leaves us with several possible answers:

  1. Children of single parents often have needs that go unmet, especially when family income may be at or below the poverty level. How could you help these kids?
  2. Maybe you could partner with an organization that cares for children of drug addicts, who are physically and emotionally unable to care for their children.
  3. Perhaps you could give money to support organizations that care for AIDS orphans in Africa.
  4. Perhaps God would lead you to be a foster family.
  5. Perhaps God would lead you to adopt from China, where girls are aborted by the millions. Or from Russia or other countries where life expectancy is very low.

The Sick and Disabled. Jesus says we should invite the lame, blind, etc. to feast with us. He tells the story of the Good Samaritan to show that tending to the sick and disabled should cross any kind of social barrier. And he says that anytime you help “one of these” it is the exact same as if you were doing it to him. This is a no-brainer. All Christ-followers should care for the sick and reach out to the disabled.

Prisoners. The Bible explicity says that believers should care about, remember, and visit those in prison. (Hebrews 13:3, Matthew 25:36, 2 Timothy 1:16-18)

The Opressed. Social Injustice offends God (numerous Biblical examples). Therefore, it ought to offend us. It should give us a holy discontent when people are abused, taken advantage of, ripped off, silenced, persecuted, tortured, or neglected. “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8

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CONCLUSION
I don’t know about you, but God is stirring me up about this stuff. I feel convicted for not doing anything significant about compassion initiatives. I feel that God is trying to teach me something about his character that I should do a better job modeling. I tend to just get caught up in my own life and my own cares and responsibilities and to just neglect my Biblical compassion responsibilities. What about you? Where are you with this stuff?

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[* footnote: It is no secret that I am of the conservative political persuasion. Just check out some of the other articles on this blog site for confirmation of that. So people ask me all the time, “How can you be a strong conservative – believing in free market capitalism and no redistribution of wealth – yet also defend the obvious socialist model of the Acts church? How do you reconcile the two?” Well, the big difference is that we are talking about two completely different kinds of entities – Government and the Church. I believe in both – but I believe they shouln’t try to do each other’s jobs! Government should do what is best at – maintaining an army, establishing a currency, building roads and bridges, uhhhhhh remind me…what else do they do well??? <grin> But the CHURCH – well, that is an awesome socialist organization! (The difference being that participation is voluntary, not mandated by law). I have absolutely no problem with voluntarily pooling my resources into the church, who will then use that money to aid the poor, etc. My problem comes when my government takes money out of my pocket – by force – to give to my neighbor. Charity should be voluntary, otherwise it’s not charity – it’s a punishment for succeeding.]

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Counterfeit Intimacy

February 25, 2009

This post is the 2nd in a follow-up series to Sharing Our Story (Jan 26). The 1st follow-up to that was the post called What Drives You To Act Out (Feb 19). This series is targeted to people who struggle with addictions and their spouses. If you’re not an addict (or married to one) the following info might be really weird for you. I’m just sayin’.

I wanted to write about the issue of Counterfeit Intimacy some more, as it has been a foundational issue in my recovery.

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First, let’s define intimacy. I do not mean intimacy as sex – which comes immediately to a lot of people’s minds. Instead, I mean intimacy as an emotional connection, not a physical one. It is familiarity, a feeling of belonging together, closeness, of truly knowing each other, “to know and be known”, to not have secrets between you, to empathize with the other person, to share common experiences and goals, to be on the same team emotionally and spiritually, to be accepted and loved for the person you really are.

I never realized how important my need for intimacy, as defined above, was until I got into recovery. And then I came to learn that my addiction to pornography was linked directly to this idea of counterfeit intimacy.

Pornography is a fantasy – yes. It is an aid for physical pleasure and stress relief – yes. But for the addict, it is much more than that. Addicts are looking for something to fill the void which is created inside them by a lack of intimacy in their marriage. We crave that intimacy so much, that when our gauge gets low -and the need is not addressed in a reasonable amount of time – then we will turn to counterfiet intimacy in a lame attempt to fill that need.

Pornography is a counterfeit intimacy because it plays on the illusion of closeness and familiarity. It gives the user a cheap imitation of actual acceptance and love. But it is not real. It is hollow. It cannot fill up the void that exists within. It can only temporarily delay the feeling of isolation. Because the truth is – as soon as you’re done looking at it – the empty feeling wells up from within and is even more powerful than before. And on top of that – you pile guilt and shame on top of it.

It is at this point in the cycle, that you see why people get trapped with it. When you feel that guilt and shame, you can’t look your spouse in the eye (because intimacy and trust has been broken). You now have a secret that exists in the space between the two of you. This makes getting your need for intimacy filled all the more unlikely, because NOW you not only have the normal lack of connection with that person that has to be rekindled through communication and understanding, but now you have actual barriers you have to cross before you can even GET there.

The first barrier is honesty. You have to come clean with your spouse. This will take courage and humility. But most certainly, your spouse will react negatively (obviously.) So you will reach another barrier.

The second barrier is forgiveness. The spouse will need time to process things, to go through anger and frustration and letting their emotions out. And once they get through all that, (hopefully with God’s help and some time), they will offer you forgiveness. This will free you from the guilt and shame, but now you’re on to the third barrier to restoring intimacy.

The third barrier is rebuilding trust. There can’t be intimacy without a component of trust. After all, why would you open up and re-give your heart to someone who is likely to break it again? How do you rebuild trust? My counselor gave me this little tidbit to remember. Trust is easy to define, but hard to build. Trust is: consistent behavior over time. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But for the addict, it’s very hard to get through. You have to consistently make right choices over a long period of time in order to earn back someone’s trust.

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Once you’ve made it through those three barriers, now you’re back to ground zero and back to building intimacy between the two of you. Talking, sharing, laughing, crying, communicating, sharing experiences and setting common goals and just generally being on the same page. THAT’s how you create intimacy – and it is its own reward.

Sex between two people who are connected in that type of intimacy is always amazing – not because there’s anything diffeent physically, but because you are living out the biblical promise – “and the two shall be one flesh”. United as one. Sharing everything. Holding nothing back.

So the next time you feel that intimacy in your marriage is on the decline, DO NOT PUT IT OFF. Do whatever it takes to regain it. If your “everyday” efforts do not get you back to that place, then ramp it into overdrive! Take time off work. Get a babysitter. Go away for the weekend. IT’S THAT IMPORTANT. Once you settle for the counterfeit intimacy, you start a cycle of separation that will last a long time and lead to a lot of un-necessary pain.

My Heart Is Grieving

January 16, 2009

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Read this today. Quote from the book, “unchristian” by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons

In virtually every study we conduct [speaking of The Barna Group], representing thousands of interviews every year, born-again Christians fail to display much attitudinal or behavioral evidence of transformed lives. For instance, based on a study released in 2007, we found that most of the lifestyle activities of born-again Christians were statistically equivalent to those of non-born-agains. When asked to identify their activities over the last thirty days, born-again believers were just as likely to bet or gamble, to visit a pornographic website, to take something that did not belong to them, to consult a medium or psychic, to physically fight or abuse someone, to have consumed enough alcohol to be considered legally drunk, to have used an illegal nonprescription drug, to have said something to someone that was not true, to have gotten back at someone for something he or she did, and to have said mean things behind another person’s back.

No difference.

One study we conducted examined Americans’ engagement in some types of sexually innapropriate behavior, including looking at online pornography, viewing sexually explicit magazines or movies, or having an intimate sexual encounter outside of marriage. In all, we found that 30 percent of born-again Christians admitted to at least one of these activities in the past thirty days, compared with 35 percent of other Americans. In statistical and practical terms, this means the two groups are essentially no different from each other.

And lest you think that the term “born again Christians” is referring to the the broad group of Americans who self-identify with that term, the actual grouping came from Barna researchers, who ask the interviewees if they have “made a personal commitment to Jesus that is still important and that the person believes he or she will got to heaven at death, because the person has confessed his or her sin and accepted Christ as Savior.” Pretty strict definition there.

“No difference”. That phrase is haunting me. What are we (as Christians and Christian leaders all across the nation) doing? Are we only interested in selling “Fire Insurance”? Is the art of making disciples completely dead? Have we forgotten how to walk arm-in-arm with people and do life together with them – loving them through lifechange? Are we so disconnected with the Holy Spirit that we wouldn’t recognize one of his works if we saw it?

Take it to the next level – make it personal? Would YOU have answered those questions any differently? If you were asked to report on your last 30 days of activities – would there be any difference between your life and the average non-believing American’s?

Dear God, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Psalm 51:10)

They’re back…

April 16, 2008

Rumor has it we’re going to get another visit from “Christ-follower” and “Christian” this weekend…stay tuned.