Tag Archives: compassion

In the Background

Christianity is a faith, I believe, that functions in the background. Or at least it should. The Christian faith is a personal one. It functions as the relationship of individual to Deity, but it is also a function of individual to individual. The most effective dissemination of the Gospel has always been on a one-to-one basis. Granted, God has blessed many great evangelists over the years with widespread ministries, leading hundreds and thousands to Christ at a time. But I think the numbers would show that the greatest spread of the Word has been through personal relationships with each other, with letting the Christian lifestyle speak volumes, with communicating our hope in casual conversation. When Christians take the Gospel to the public arena, particularly the political arena, the message somehow gets tainted and stilted. In that realm emotions like fear flavor the good news in a way that is often harmful because political-religious concerns involve protecting the right to worship. That fear drives that political action, and what starts as a movement to protect freedom of worship almost turns into a blanket action to forcefully establish a state religion, something that the founding fathers were very careful to protect against. (Of course, there are also those who use their beliefs to foster an attitude of superiority, who allow that attitude to breed anger, hatred, and bitterness, but those are the individuals that need to be separated from the whole because they clearly do not aid the Body. They are the cancer that brings the Body down and should removed.)

Christianity is a faith that operates best in the background. Our faith should be visible, but not obnoxiously so. Our faith should be presented with love and compassion but also with patience and understanding, two virtues that I think are all too often forgotten or ignored. No one can be forced to believe in Christ or in God, yet the practice of our faith should be compelling and awe-inspiring. This is why it is so important to develop active relationships with other people — with other Christians for the strengthening of our faith and the renewal of our spirits, and with unbelievers so that we may demonstrate with our lives and testify with our lips the power of the hope that is in us. Let us relate our hope to others and build the Kingdom one life at a time.

Drive

Everyone has certain values, beliefs, and goals that drive them. They serve as the presuppositions and the assumptions behind every thought, behavior, and action. And when these value systems are not clarified, they can hinder communication because people think they are on the same page when really they are not. Like everyone else, I have values and beliefs that drive me, that serve as my foundation for behavior. I could probably list many values that drive me, but here are my top three:

1. I believe in absolute truth and that that truth can be known. The main reason behind this belief is purely logical. A universe without absolutes would quickly (possibly instantly) spiral into chaos and disorder. There are absolutes in science, in the basic workings of the universe, that keep everything working smoothly. There are some who would say that there are no absolutes, that all truth is relative, and I would quickly point them to proven absolutes. They might then suggest that there is no social truth, that what is truth is different to each individual. But I would also suggest that this breaks from the very nature of the universe and of life itself. It is not hard to look into human behavior and see absolutes defining that behavior every day.

2. I believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present God, loving, compassionate, yet just in all His ways, slow to anger, quick to forgive, a God who is there and who not silent, active, yet often subtle in His ways. This may, in fact, be the most basic of all my values, the foundation of all my foundations. There must have been an intelligent design to the universe, an establisher of the absolute truth I see all around me, a Being so much bigger than I am who can do all that I cannot. The only Being who even remotely fits the facts as I observe is the God
of the Bible. Everything I do is done with the knowledge that He sees me and cares about me and that I have to do little more than speak in order to communicate with Him.

3. I believe in integrity, that a man’s word is his bond. This is a natural step from the last and encompasses a great many other values. This includes keeping promises, fulfilling obligations
and responsibilites to the best of my ability, maintaining confidentialities (even when not explicity asked), and behaving with utmost respect and courtesy toward all other individuals.
Integrity is a big deal to me and drives me in a way that few other values can do. I would expect integrity directed toward me, and so I would direct no less than absolute integrity toward others.

We all have values to guide our lives and behavior. I’d be interested to hear some of yours. And if you haven’t thought about it, maybe it’s time you did.

Accountability of the Body

It occurs to me this evening that within the Body of Christ, there is less accountability than there ought to be. Everyday I see instances where unbelievers are angry, cynical, and bitter toward Christians because of the general behavior of many they have seen and experienced. It pains me to know that Christians are perceived in such a negative light, but I also realize that those stereotypes and categorizations are justly deserved. Many Christians are sadly some of the more judgmental and hypocritical people I know.

But it also occurs to me that the Body should hold itself accountable. We should be policing ourselves, practicing the Biblical guidelines for loving, compassionate confrontation for the sake of the good of the whole. Anyone who claims to be a disciple of Christ is subject to this accountability, and any brother or sister in Christ should be able to approach any other brother or sister and confront them about sin, hypocrisy, heresy, etc. When notable Christians are in the news and/or are publicly behaving in a way that reflects badly on the Body, other Christians should be making phone calls, writing letters, making personal visits to that individual, expressing their concerns, citing biblical references for why the individual’s actions were wrong, and endeavoring to rectify the situation so as to repair the testimony of the Body as a whole. Yet we shy away from this duty because we are afraid of the confrontation, afraid of being rebuffed and scorned and ridiculed by those same individuals and possibly by others in the Body. But we should do it anyway because it is the right thing to do and because it so damages our testimony and hinders our work and the work of the Holy Spirit.

So, this is my challenge to all of you and to myself — stand up for what is right, seek to reprove, rebuke, and exhort according to the Word of God, and strive for greaty unity, harmony, and communion among the Body. In the long run, we will be stronger, happier, and
healthier for it, and we can really get about doing the work of the Lord.

What Does It Really Mean To Be ‘Evangelical’?

It occurred to me over this past weekend to wonder what it really means to be ‘evangelical’? I overheard a couple of individuals (who were obviously not Christians) talking about different
kinds of Christians and what they stood for, and they threw the word ‘evangelical’ around like it was a swear word. It made me wonder what the word really meant and whether or not it means the same thing in today’s culture. So, I looked it up on this website, and this is what I found:

evangelical [i:vænʒelɪkəl]
A adjective
1 evangelical
relating
to or being a Christian church believing in personal conversion and the
inerrancy of the Bible especially the 4 Gospels; “evangelical
Christianity”; “an ultraconservative evangelical message”
2 evangelical
of or pertaining to or in keeping with the Christian gospel especially as in the first 4 books of the New Testament
3 evangelical, evangelistic
marked by ardent or zealous enthusiasm for a cause

As these definitions stand here, I see little trouble in accepting the term ‘evangelical’ as accurate and correct. I would even consider myself an evangelical Christian.

Here is where I think the problem lies. Look at the second example in the first definition: “an ultraconservative evangelical message.” I don’t have a problem with the example itself, per se. However, one word stands out to me as the place where we as Christians have problems in relating to the world around us — conservative. I believe we need to be conservative as far as preserving truth goes. However, in our practices, I think Christians sometimes have swung so far to the extreme as to no longer be conservative. Instead, so many of our churches have become legalistic, even Pharisaical. This is the real rub with those we are trying to win
to Christ. As evangelicals we strive to preach the Gospel, to share the hope that is within us. But as legalists we are harsh and cruel and judgmental. We strive so hard to preserve the
truth, to preserve the facts of our faith that we forget the human element. We forget that we
are also supposed to be compassionate and caring and sensitive. I hear a lot of gossip in our churches, a lot of judgment, and I see a lot of anger and bitterness and strife — with each other! We see the sin and faults of our brothers and sisters (and of the world around us), and we pass judgment on them and distance ourselves from them. And I fear that in this process we have damaged our testimony in such a way that it’s no wonder we find ourselves faced
with so much cynicism from the world.

Of course, I realize this is not the case with all Christians or even all churches. But the trouble is that it is so much easier to see the bad than the good, and so those of us who strive to live like Christ are overshadowed by those who think they are living like Christ but who are, in actuality, living like the very Pharisees whom He condemned. Christ said that we would be hated by the world, that we would be persecuted by it, but I see the Church bringing so much of that condemnation upon itself because of what some are doing that undermines our work. I myself struggle with a cynical attitude toward so many Christians and churches, and I have to wonder, if I struggle with this while I am part of the Body, how much more do those who are without struggle with seeing their need for this Christ whom we so poorly represent?

In our beliefs I believe we should be conservative, preserving the truth of God’s Word. In our practices, I believe we should be progressive, reaching out into the world and moving with it, adjusting accordingly as we seek to meet its needs, to display this God we love, to win them to the Kingdom. Christ came to love sinners. Why can’t we do the same?

Hodge-Podge

Ok, a couple of different thoughts……

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I’m pretty discouraged today at the way my fleshly lusts have pretty much pre-empted my other pursuits. For instance, I now have a PlayStation and a VERY cool video game to go with it (thanks, Hon! ). But the trouble is that this week it has completely consumed my free time, and I’ve gotten very little else done, like my house chores, homework, or even spending time with God. I hate that I’ve become so undisciplined. I don’t think it helps that my bedtime has been chaotic, and most nights I’m lucky to get 6 hours of sleep.

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A quote from a website I stumbled across:

“Anyone who wants to glorify God more fully by moving from theology (The study of the nature of God and religious truth) to doxology (An expression of praise to God…which is the heart of worship)!”

This is a good start, but it’s missing a step. How about: Theology to Doxology to Methodology? i.e. the study of the nature of God to praise and worship of God to practical application in daily life — and actually DOING it! Our generation has this really bad habit of studying and praising and forgetting about the doing. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not condemning what this study group is doing. I am merely suggesting that another step be added to the mix, one that is all too often forgotten…..

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I’m noticing a lot of discouragement and heartache is going around right now. For those of you struggling, I’ll be praying. For those of us not, we need to gather around those who are and offer Christian support. We are needed, and now is the time for us to step up and take our responsibility to show God’s love, compassion, and encouragement.