Category Archives: Loving Our Neighbor

Twenty-First Century Reformation: How We Talk to Our Neighbor

Love the sinner, hate the sin.

And, oh, how we hate that sin.

We hate sin because we believe God hates it. We act as if we are keepers of the old Law as God’s special deputies, here to explain and enforce His Law.  People focus on a very small handful of issues or sins, for the most part, declaring damnation on anyone who takes part.

People tend to spout selections of the Law as fits what they feel is the most important issue or the worst sin. There are protests, speeches, sermons, statements and general words-to-be-said to people who are involved, have done or support some sin (or what some may consider sin). There are select verses, long-winded explanations, alleged studies showing how wrong they are, warnings and threats of eternal damnation for those who are guilty of these oft mentioned issues.

People are told how much God loves them.

Okay. That is good. As we know, God’s love is unconditional.

However, with that, they are told how sinful they are and how they must repent and and accept Jesus as personal Lord and Savior.  Funny thing is, this is not how Jesus ever approached, anyone.

biblebashers

He told His disciples, “Follow Me”.

He told the Woman at the Well, “I am He.”

He had the disciples feed the multitudes without question.

He went about doing good and acted in kindness toward all. He healed, fed and taught.  He simply presented Himself and the Gospel.

But, we demand repentance of people.

Repentance is a result of knowing His love and grace. It is a change of mind in response to His revelation. Not from the demand of anyone.

Quick story: A pastor I knew told of one of his weekly stops at a local doughnut shop, which was owned and run by an Indian family.  One of the women there asked him about what he believed and he explained about his belief in Jesus. When he returned the question, she replied how she believed in many gods. He came back at her with, “That is a shame!”

No. He was being shameful, really.

The Romans were pagans. We don’t read Jesus telling the Centurion, or other Romans He encountered, anything about their paganism.

How we speak to our neighbor is important. Being pleasant and nice is good, but the words we use can be like either throwing rocks or sending invitations.

Jesus said to love our neighbor. There was no other caveat, clause, opposing thought, or even a, “But…”.

Jesus never reacted to sin or how people lived. If He addressed anyone on their sin, it was the religious hypocrites, not the “sinners”. He made it a point to spend time with sinners, so much so that the religious accused Him of being one of them (Matthew 11:19). Christians, on the other hand, stay at arms length from those they deem as sinners, often spending a great amount of time among ‘their own kind’.

The big trouble with hating the sin and loving the sinner is that hating the sin gets magnified. We can be so focused on “hating the sin” that what others mostly see is the hate. How people live is often part of who they are. To express hate over what someone does communicates hate toward the person.

In the account of the woman at the well, Jesus spoke lovingly and respectfully to the woman, even though He had every opportunity and perfect right to address everything that was wrong with her. He answered each of her questions and made no issue of her not being married to the man she was living with.  When she wanted to go back and get people to come hear Him, He did not demand that she change in order to “represent Him better”.

We would rather tell people what is wrong with them, how sinful they are and how far away they are from Jesus, rather than just presenting them with Jesus in the first place.

Hate is a poor communicator.

Back to the first sentence of this post. Let’s edit that.

Love the sinner.

 

Advertisements
Tagged ,

The Alleged War on Christmas

waronchristmasHere we are, more than halfway through October and there are tremors about what some are calling a war on Christmas.  This is all because, supposedly, retail employees are not allowed to bid customers a Merry Christmas.

Not allowed to say Merry Christmas?

Says, who?

Well, there was that time that employees of a major retail chain were asked to say, “Happy Holidays”, rather than “Merry Christmas”. It was in order to not exalt one holiday over the others that are celebrated during that time of year. That sure started some lovely waves of response by those who feel Christmas is the only holiday worth mention.

I think this is what may have been the catalyst on this alleged war on Christmas.

I understand that now, retailers may encourage employees to greet with the more generic, “Happy Holidays”, but do not outright discourage saying “Merry Christmas”.  However, since the former greeting is still active, there are those Christians who act like they are being dragged down to the dungeon, placed on a rack and tortured for Christ’s cause.

Give me a break.

Now we want to legislate holiday greetings.  Really?

Personally, I don’t care.  I mean, Christmas is a holiday.  It should be wished to be a happy one.  Right?  However, to not admit there are other holidays that folks celebrate is rather short sighted.

A brief tale of arrogance.

A former pastor used to love telling of his “boldness” with people.  One of his particular bragging moments, he explained how a cashier said, “Happy holidays!” upon completion of his order.  He explained how he boldly and confidently looked straight at the cashier and replied with a smile, “Merry Christmas!”, as if he had one-upped the store employee with his clever and victorious holiday greeting.

Pompous ass.

Yeah, I said it.

Christmas is a made up holiday.

I will also say this – we put way too much stock in Christmas.  While I am not anti-Christmas or some sort of Scrooge or Grinch, I simply do not see Christmas as being “all o’ dat”.  It is a made up holiday that was meant for the sole purpose of keeping pagans among the Church. Really.  Read the history of Christmas and how pagans celebrated Saturnalia (a legal free-for-all).  In short, they made the day after Saturnalia’s end, December 25th, as Jesus’ birthday in order to get these pagans back in line.  It was a church marketing program.  Over that last hundred and something years, it has been highly commercialized, making big profits for retailers.

One guy wrote a letter to that one big retailer I mentioned, saying how they should say, “Merry Christmas”, as they and other retailers owe their year end profits to Christmas. Yeah, they kinda do.  But, that is not a good enough reason to force that greeting on everyone.

In the long run, we now have a fun, festive time full of a variety of traditions.  It is primarily a Christian holiday, of course.  Not Jewish, not Muslim, not Buddhist and certainly not Atheist. To bid everyone a ‘Merry Christmas’ is presumptuous and pushy.

It is perfectly disrespectful to force someone else to observe a traditional greeting for a holiday they might not celebrate, much less one they do not identify with.

There is no war on Christmas

There is no “war”. Those who declare this are simply wanting a big fight.  They want to claim some sort of persecution against Christians.  They claim how everyone gets their rights, but Christians are having their rights removed.  What they really want is their “Christian nation” so they can run things and legislate what they think is morality.

In the United States, Christians are not being persecuted.  If these guys simply read the definition of what persecution is, they might realize they are not being persecuted.

They are bullies who claim to be the victims.

I am continually amazed how people want to shove Christianity on people, but not present Jesus and His Gospel to them.  Forcing people to say or hear something like Merry Christmas is not only obnoxious, but it’s useless.  It is not about the Kingdom.

If someone says, “Happy Holidays”, the simple response should be, “Thank you. Happy Holidays to you, too.”, with a smile.

Romans 12:18 states, If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Amplified)

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers…”

Since when is living at peace with anyone about attacking them because they are not on our “side”? This is not to say we should seek some sort of tranquil Utopian thing, but not to be troublemakers.

These characters who want to force their beliefs, convictions or traditions on others are troublemakers, not peacemakers.

Keep Christ in Christmas?

This old chestnut is worn out.  Personally, I am sick of seeing it on bumper stickers, front lawns or plastered on Facebook.  The best response I have seen for this is, “How about we keep Christ in Christian?”

It is the Christians who declared this alleged war.  This is not Christ-like in any stretch of the imagination.  Jesus didn’t go around forcing Himself on anyone or demanding that the Jews overthrow the Roman government.  He did not expect Romans to celebrate Passover or observe Hebrew Law.

 

 

 

Tagged , ,

Seeking Approval From Ghosts

About a couple of years ago, I read the book, I’m Proud of You: My Friendship With Fred Rogers, by Tim Madigan. Mr. Madigan is a journalist who spent time interviewing the famed Mr. Rogers and found a friend in him. I highly recommend this book, if you want to read something that makes you reach for a tissue.

Within the book, through the friendship with Mr. Rogers, Tim was discovered a need for a certain level of approval. Mr. Rogers, being the kind of person he was, saw this and began to end his responses with, “IPOY”…which stands for, I’m proud of you.

Personally Speaking

My father was, by all accounts, a pretty decent guy.  He was pleasant, well liked and seemingly content most of the time.  There were issues, however, that kept him from being part of the household on a consistent basis.  So, from a young age, I remember my father either working long hours, or making a stop at a “local watering hole” before he came home. I don’t think he meant to be distant, but it did end up that way.

By the time I was nearly eleven, he had a massive stroke that left him in nursing care for the remainder of his life.  The man I barely knew had permanent short-term memory loss, so he needed 24 hour care.  He was not the same man, really.  In the long run, I never really got to know him.

Years later, as an adult, I unwittingly began seeking approval from others.  Men in authority, such as pastors or other leaders who would have been some level of paternal figure. It was not really a desperate thing, but it seemed to be a subconscious necessity.  It took me many years into my adulthood before I realized that I was seeking someone’s approval.

However, we are always approved.

Unconditionally, undeniably, unashamedly, unconditionally…with no regret, no reservations and without doubt…God approves of us.  No, not everything we do.

Everything we are.

His beloved children.  This is why Jesus went to anyone, from any walk of life, with any ailment, no matter their station in life, how they lived, smelled or looked…He would treat them with love and respect, placing a loving arm around them, covering what others would bring as exposed shame.

He never said He approved of what someone was doing, but He clearly showed He approved of the person.

He approves of you.

He approves of me.

Showing approval.

We still need approval, here on Earth.  We need to express and show approval.  You know, like when a little kids brings you his brilliant artwork.  Sure, it may look like mud-colored chaos on a piece of warped and water logged paper.  But, as a loving parent, you let them know how great their work is and hang it on the refrigerator for all to see.

One thing I have been trying to be diligent about…letting my two sons and son-in-law know that I am proud of them.  Yes, I let my girls know that, too.  But, I believe the impact of a Dad communicating this to his sons is important.  I don’t want them seeking approval from people who may wind up taking advantage of their efforts.

Once in a while, I will post something on my Facebook page about one or all of my boys, if not all of the kids.  I will explain how they are becoming fine adults, parents and citizens.  I have often closed these with “IPOY”.  When I talk with them, personally, I try to remember to let them know that I am always proud of them.

Story.

This is rather condensed, but I hope my point comes across.

An old friend was explaining to me about some stuff his son would write.  He told me his son has great insights.  However, from a theological standpoint, my friend had disagreements and let his son know what he felt was inaccurate.  Upon explaining this to me, he said that, perhaps, his son was seeking his Dad’s approval.  So, I just said that he should give his son his approval.

Not long later, he was reviewing another of his son’s articles.  He had some normal critique, but some of his critique was about to become rather, well, critical.  Under the advice of his wife, he left out those portions and his son’s response was very positive.  My friend actually sees a turnaround in his relationship with his son.

Dad’s approval for his sons means much. Mom’s approval for her girls means much. Parents approval for our children means much.  Grandparents approval for our grandchildren means much.  We may not agree with everything, we may have to correct or show the correct way.  But, we should always approve of them.

 

Approval comes from love.

Love says my desires are less important than others’ well being.  Love says my knowledge is less important than someone else’s effort.  Love says that my being right is less important than supporting someone going through a tough spot.  Love says that my agenda should be set aside for the betterment of someone else.

The ghost is gone.

There is no end to searching for approval from someone who is not there or who will never show proper approval.  For whatever reason, I finally came to realize that I was searching and how vain that search was.  God always approves of me and He is a proud father of all of us.

I now know He approves of me.  The ghost his gone.

We are His children and that is all there is to it.

If Jesus were to leave you a note, He might sign it…

IPOY

 

 

Tagged , , ,

Turning the Tables and Kicking Butts

Not a terribly sanctified title, I suppose.  If this is a problem…well…get over it.

In the ancient Jewish culture, the seriousness of sacrifices was like a life or death matter. This was what people did to seek forgiveness or gain or keep God’s approval.  The thing was, there was not a Temple on every corner.  People had to travel to Jerusalem in order to exercise sacrificial rites, often traveling long distances.  Well, this is relative…we have cars, trains and planes, now…they traveled by foot or beast.  Long, dusty travel.

Since they had to travel, carrying animals for sacrifice was inconvenient, if not out of the question. So, it was acceptable to buy animals when they got into town. Some may wonder why Jesus would barge in there and start turning over tables and whipping to drive out sellers.  Here is a recount, from John 2…

13 The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. 15 Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 He told those who were selling the doves, “Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”

Let me repeat…this was an acceptable practice.  So, why would Jesus make such a production?

Price gouging.

Profiting from people’s desperation.

They were charging many times more than the animals would sell for otherwise.  If there were sellers elsewhere in town, prices were competitive.  But, at the temple, last minute, the prices were outrageous.

I have heard this taught with the focus on these guys selling stuff at the Temple, as Jesus exclaimed how it was to be a “house of prayer”, as He was “cleansing” the Temple of these profiteers who were selling on God’s property…that is, stuff should not be sold at all on Temple grounds.  This has also been the reason many churches won’t even have rummage sales to raise funds.

I don’t think this is the whole idea, though.  I believe He was protecting the people from being used by men wanting to make some fast money off of peoples’ desperation.  If we watch what Jesus was doing throughout His time, here, He often stood between the Pharisees (and other Jewish leaders) and the people.  In this case, the people were being taken advantage of in the name of what they would give to the Lord.

It’s not unlike when a lumberyard sells 25 dollar plywood for one hundred dollars, or more, or when fuel prices triple, just before or after a hurricane.

As I see it, we still have this problem.  Maybe you see it, too. People are being ripped of and taken advantage of in their quest to gain approval they don’t need, in the first place.  It comes with words…the convincing, manipulative words of men who, in many cases, profit greatly from the desperation of people.

Again…this is as I see it.  I am sharing my observations.

Tithing

Now, if you tithe, I ask, don’t fire back at me for this.  I am not asking you to agree with me…I am merely sharing what I have learned, in brief.

The popular Malachi passage was not addressed to the masses, but to the priests.  This was speaking about produce, not money and it went into a storehouse for distribution, not the synagogue for support of it or the Temple. Also, the idea of the local church mystically becoming a storehouse is unfounded.

Prosperity Teachings

Another way are the prosperity teachings.  This is a boldly indecent doctrine, raking in mass amounts of money with the lie of a promise that the giver will be “blessed”.  Some congregations have an attendee base made up of many financially struggling people who gladly give with the idea that God will raise them from their humble circumstances. However, the only ones making a fortune are the ones teaching these counterfeit messages.  The message appeals to greed, desperation and peoples’ desire to please God (by tithing/giving).  A few even give their last bit of money for nothing, because they want to find favor with God.

Where the money goes

In the US, seventy percent of the average church budget goes for buildings and salaries. Not feeding people in need, not clothing for the poor, not missions, not housing…that stuff all squeezes out somewhere among the remaining 30 percent.

Meanwhile, pastors are made into professionals and paid executive salaries in many cases, and buildings are made to be inviting and comfortable if not luxurious.  Somehow, this does not add up to what we can read about being witnesses, serving or being a pastor/elder…or even the “Great Commission”.

Manipulating the desperate ones.

It’s not always about money.

The invitation to go to Heaven or the threat of Hell after a long message appealing to peoples’ emotions, is a manipulative tactic to convince people to make an altar call. These altar calls often breed emotional responses and are the least effective way to lead people to the Lord, anyway.  But, those who do this are happy as they watch the droves come down the aisles and proclaim the numbers of those  who “came forward”.

There is also the threat of God’s disapproval over stuff deemed wrong as another manipulative tactic to keep members in line.  I have heard people…pastors from the pulpit, too…say how God can be disappointed in someone.  Wow…where did they get that idea?  What part of the Bible did God ever say, “I am so disappointed in you.”?

It comes down to Law.

If it isn’t bad enough for people to lean on the Law, they make Law out of things that really have no scriptural support, whatsoever.  What makes matters worse, the people who deliver that garbage are famous, sought after teachers, who are educated and have studied the Bible quite thoroughly.  However, one would think that they never studied the ministry and words of Jesus, Himself.

Have we forgotten about Jesus?

It just seems that simple.  Many of us claim, “The Bible plainly says…”, or, “It is clear in scripture…”, yet totally miss the simple and obvious accounts of Jesus’ ministry.  Of all the claims and declarations we can make, we seem to overlook Who we claim to serve.

Let’s get back to Jesus. Who He is. What He said and how He treated people while He was among men.  With that, we will see the old doctrines we have been following and pushing are not all they are cracked up to be.

For that matter, many of these old dogmas are just plain cracked.

Back to the Beginning.

It has always been about Jesus.  From the beginning, through the middle, now and on to Eternity.  Follow Him.  When we do that, we will begin to see how to live, serve and love His people and Him, as He has first loved us.

 

 

 

Tagged , , ,

Do Not Support PBA

My wife watches our youngest granddaughter 4 days a week.  The little one is 10 months old and enjoys watching Mother Goose Club.

Over. And over. And over, again.

What the heck, she’s adorable and it is all about her, anyway.

What does this have to do with this “PBA” mentioned in the title?

I will tell you with the story of the Three Little Kittens.  Hearing the several renditions of this old nursery rhyme made both me and my wife consider something about the story.

You know these kittens…the ones who lost their mittens.  The story has to do with PBA. What is this “PBA”?  I will get to that.  Now, let’s remind ourselves of the old story.

Basics of Three Little Kittens

It goes like this…they lost their mittens, mother calls them ‘naughty kittens’ and they are notthreekittens allowed any pie.  I am not sure what kind of pie…looked like some kind of fruit, to me. My cats don’t care for fruit. As for mittens – cats have no thumbs. Maybe they were really baby tube socks.

I digress.

Then, the little kittens find their mittens and their very pleased mother gives them pie. Problem here, is, they wore the mittens while eating the pie.  They, thus, soiled said mittens, which rendered them as ‘naughty kittens’, once again.

Can’t threaten them with no pie…too late for that.

This has a big problem, though…Mom served them the pie. Did she not notice the mittens?  Well, whatever.

The little creeps decided they would wash their mittens.  This pleased Mother Dear, once again.  With that, she noted she smelled a rat nearby.  Okay, now kids.  Don’t wear your mittens while mauling that rat.  It will only start all over again.

By this point, you are wondering what this PBA is all about.  Enough with these ignorant kittens.

PBA is Performance Based Approval.  

Often, people are approved or disapproved based on their performance.  Performance Based Approval is a serious issue within the Church.  How we act, what we say, what we do or don’t do, what we wear, how we talk, etc., etc.  There is more about pleasing others than there is in knowing that the Father is pleased with us.

The Father always approves of us.  While I am pretty sure He is not so thrilled when we act contrary to His design or desire for us, He approves of us.

Parents…don’t you approve of your kids?  Sure, they can be loud, disobedient, wall-coloring, sass-mouthed, fight-picking, booger-eating vermin.  But, really…you totally approve of them.  Not the booger part, just them.  How much more does the Father approve of all of us?

In the Church, people are graded.  How much they serve, what they do, how loudly they praise or how often they raise hands during worship.  How we conduct ourselves determines whether we can head up a ministry or even serve in one, or in some churches, where we get to sit.  Sure, there are things that we need to be wise about concerning certain issues.  But, too many are put into some sort of confines of man-made rules.

Look who Jesus chose as His twelve.  Judas was overly concerned about money, Peter was headstrong and had issues with Gentiles, James and John wanted to one-up each other and there was certainly a good share of argumentative questioning and doubt to go around.  Jesus also ministered to countless people who had nothing to do with Him after they were healed, taught or fed.

He approved of every single one.

Really?  Yes, He did.

Maybe we just need to get over ourselves or get off of our high horses.

God’s approval is not based on our performance.  Why do we demand certain performance in order to approve of anyone?

What this breeds, most often, is behavior modification.  People will act and talk in certain ways around their fellow Christians, whom they want to be approved by.  They can’t be themselves, they can’t have a bad day, they can’t have a hole in their jeans which are frowned upon for wearing in the first place.  They have to sing with a certain amount of apparent excitement, talk like life is one big victory, be sure to give tithes and offerings, have near perfect children, perfect hair and never be late to service.

All to win approval.

No.  This is too much pressure for people.

Love and grace have no performance demands for approval.  Say “No!”, to Performance Based Approval.

In this case, I do not support PBA.

 

Compassion in Action

Luke 13:10-17

10 One Sabbath, Jesus was teaching in a Jewish meeting place, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by an evil spirit for eighteen years. She was completely bent over and could not straighten up. 12 When Jesus saw the woman, he called her over and said, “You are now well.” 13 He placed his hands on her, and right away she stood up straight and praised God.

14 The man in charge of the meeting place was angry because Jesus had healed someone on the Sabbath. So he said to the people, “Each week has six days when we can work. Come and be healed on one of those days, but not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord replied, “Are you trying to fool someone? Won’t any one of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath? 16 This woman belongs to the family of Abraham, but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years. Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?” 17 Jesus’ words made his enemies ashamed. But everyone else in the crowd was happy about the wonderful things he was doing.

This passage is familiar, particularly with the emphasis that Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath.  As I see it, this was the first part of the indictment.  It speaks to the rigidity the leaders held and enforced concerning the Law.

The Law was never meant to override the needs of people.  Jesus made this point clear, when He said, “Won’t any of you untie your ox or donkey and lead it out to drink on a Sabbath?”

It’s like, let’s be real…you are able to take care of your animals on the Sabbath, but a woman gets healed and you have a fit because she was healed on the Sabbath.

Really?

They seemed to forget about all those provisional things for people that were also clearly mentioned in the scriptures.  It was the Pharisees who decided all that extra stuff.  They had over two thousand rules in order to obey the Law and much of it was not based on scripture.

Wow.  Sounds a lot like what we hear from much of the Church, these days.

Right after He basically tells them that they treat livestock better than people, He points out two things.  First, He says, “This woman belongs to the family of Abraham…”.  In other words, “Boys, she is one of your own.”  He was showing them that they can’t even take care of one of their own (much less, anyone else) because of their sense of the Law.

He continued, “…but Satan has kept her bound for eighteen years.  Isn’t it right to set her free on the Sabbath?”

womansetfreeSet. Her. Free.

For eighteen years she suffered this affliction.  It bound her.  She was limited. Uncomfortable. Likely, in some pain, too.  She was not free.  Jesus set her free.

Imagine, being her.  No running.  No leisurely strolls. In pain. Being considered as “less than”, or at least, feeling that way.  For 18 years.

No one really knows what caused her problem.  This is probably the reason she was said to have been “crippled by an evil spirit”.  Was it stress?  Depression?  Hopelessness?  All of those?  It may have been an injury, but my speculation is that her malady was due to an attack on her soul.  The father of lies got to her.

Jesus saw the woman and called her over.  She was just there, bent over and probably uncomfortable.  He was not about to wait for her to ask.  As usual, He had compassion. He saw her in her misery, unable to stand straight.  He calls her over, places His hands on her as He says, “You are now well.”

This had some impact.  The “enemies” were ashamed because…

  • Jesus showed the compassion that they would not
  • Jesus pointed out they had eighteen years to show some compassion
  • He pointed out that they would take better care of their animals on the Sabbath than they did people.

1 John 3:17 (NLT)  If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion–how can God’s love be in that person?

Let’s forget the financial reference here, for a minute.  Let’s consider the point.  If there is something we have or are able to do and we overlook or bypass someone who has a need we can fill, we might lack compassion.

Compassion.  To “suffer with”.  Empathy.  When religious dictates rule over the needs of people, empathy and compassion go right out the window.  This was never God’s intention or plan and Jesus demonstrated compassion.

I don’t know about you, but I would like to move forward with compassion.  If I have the ability to do something and come across someone that has a need, I want to be one of those who extends a hand of compassion and love.

When people reach out a hand…are we willing to reach and pull them up?

 

 

 

 

 

Ministry Vs. Invitations

Every church, it seems, has some sort of an “outreach” program.  From what I have observed, there are two main ideas of what “outreach” is.

joinusThe lesser version is where the target of outreach is a getting people into a church. Whatever the specific program, the idea is to add numbers to their gathering.  Most think this is good ministry and what they are doing is spreading the Gospel.  While most involved are genuine, they are missing the fact that what they are doing is attracting people to their church.

When Jesus said, “Go, therefore…”, there was no indication of any instruction that included inviting people to be among their number.  There was a commission to preach the Gospel.

Jesus demonstrated what it is to minister to people.  Of course, minister = serve. He taught, healed and He had the disciples distribute food (that He multiplied) to thousands. Very few of these people became part of the crowd that followed Him.  Yet, He never selected, segregated, cast away, shunned or denied anyone healing or a meal.

For some reason, we feel that if someone does not want anything to do with us or the message we are shoving down their throats, we may feel justified in having nothing to do with them anymore.

‘Tis ignominious thinking, there.

Stop inviting them to church!

Before you go to your corner and ponder whether you have sinned by reading my post, let me clear this up.  What I mean, here, is that we should not make outreach into a recruiting expedition.

We were never called to bring people to church.  We were never called to threaten people with Hell if they don’t yield to the message we are planting in their faces.  I fail to see how this is spreading “good news”.

What is “outreach”, anyway?  To be clear, you won’t find that word in the Bible.  We just added that one to our lingo, some time ago.  Basically, outreach is reaching beyond – so, it is not a mistaken word to add.  We should “reach beyond”.  This is what love would do.

It also means to – now, don’t be offset by the massive difficulty of this definition – to reach out.

But, as much as we use the word, outreach, we have allowed it to morph into something lesser.  It becomes less about ministering to people and more about marketing the local church.  We seem to want to reach out as long as we can pull them in.

Love does not pull.  Love draws.  Drawing is not manipulating or convincing…it happens more organically.  We cannot force it or manufacture it.  It is not our love that draws.  It is not us who draw.  Jesus draws.  It is His love, through us.handreach

We do have some effort on our part. If we are going to reach out, our efforts should be the same ones Jesus put forth.  Take care of people.

Feed, clothe and house the poor.

Welcome and love the disenfranchised.

Protect the weak from predators.

Serve the “less-than’s”.  Don’t let pride get in the way.

Make donations to or serve local food pantries or soup kitchens.

Raise money to help someone who has fallen behind, financially (unless you are loaded, then unlock that purse).

Have a shoulder available.  Sometimes people just need to vent to a non-judgmental ear.

If able, open home to someone who needs a home (teen having a tough time at home, pregnant teen, someone needing financial relief).  This has to be a well considered commitment – it can be a disturbance and upset to the household (we did this for a young woman and there were adjustments, but it was worth it.  Might tell that story, eventually).

Don’t forget, home first.

We also read to love others, especially those of the household of faith (Gal. 6:10).  While outreach is how we show our love to others, we must never forget loving one another. How we interact and take care of each other keeps us all going so we can feel free to reach out to the rest of the world.  Plus, people see how we treat each other and that speaks volumes. So, if a brother needs a “leg up”, another brother, who is able, should give him that boost.

Let’s be reminded…Jesus gave a new commandment…love one another.

Wear their shoes.

When Jesus saw the crowds, even when He was exhausted, He had “compassion on them” (Matt. 9, Mark 6).  To have compassion is to suffer with.  Let’s also consider, sympathy and empathy.  Jesus put Himself in their place…He felt their anguish, pain, anxiety and stress. He knew their loneliness, their shortfalls and their illnesses.  Rather than being all about our own agenda, we should listen to Him and allow Him to show us what He sees.

I, like many others, have been on the  receiving end of compassion as well as ignorance. There were times when I and my family needed some help and someone was there, without any of us asking.  Other times, I stood in “prayer circles”, explaining my trials during unemployment and was basically ignored, other than being prayed for.

The latter issue is huge.  There is too much “God bless you, be warmed and filled.”, which shows no love or compassion.  Too often, people of financial means essentially ignore the plight of a person in their lives who needs a boost.  No…just because someone has money should they dole it out to every struggling soul.  But, if someone has the means…well, John stated it well in 1 John 3…

16 By this we know [and have come to understand the depth and essence of His precious] love: that He [willingly] laid down His life for us [because He loved us]. And we ought to lay down our lives for the believers. 17 But whoever has the [a]world’s goods (adequate resources), and sees his brother in need, but has no compassion for him, how does the love of God live in him? 18 Little children (believers, dear ones), let us not love [merely in theory] with word or with tongue [giving lip service to compassion], but in action and in truth [in practice and in sincerity, because practical acts of love are more than words]. (Amplified)

Less inviting.  More ministering.

Less preaching.  More serving.

Less apathy.  More compassion.

Less judgment.  More love.

I am no better at this.  I speak to myself, as well.  This year, I am praying to see what my hands can do.  I am tired of the same old – same old.  I feel it is time to rise up and be Jesus to people (especially in the current. political and “evangelical” climate).  For me, I am seeking just how that will go.  For now, I do what I can as opportunity is presented.

Let’s all seek ways to be Jesus to people.

 

 

 

Tagged ,