Compassion

Weep with those who weep.

Another day has gone by, and another black man has been shot by police. Social media is once again loud with folks either claiming injustice, or trying to dispel the myth of it. People are scared and people are angry, and this is true from every side of the discussion.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I have no answers. Many of the videos I see are disturbing. The stories I hear are things that I can’t imagine. I don’t pretend to understand what it’s like to be black in America, nor can I understand what it must be like to be a police officer during these turbulent times. Everyone is on edge, and it seems like everyone is responding in the worst possible way. This isn’t true in every situation of course, but to a large degree it is what we see being played out in the media.

Again, I don’t have the answers. I can’t tell people how to feel. I certainly can’t mend the divisions that I see in our country that are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my lifetime…but I do know how I feel, and the truth is that I’m hurting.

All morning I’ve been struggling to put into words what I’m feeling. I’m still not sure I can. But, as I look to social media this morning, the one thing that stands out to me is this: Many Christians seem to have lost the ability to “weep with those who weep” or “mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15)

The fact is, our Christian compassion can’t be dictated by whether or not we agree or disagree with the fact that there is systemic injustice in our legal system. It doesn’t matter whether or not we know all the facts, or variables in a case. It doesn’t matter the character of the individuals who are suffering, or have lost their lives. The only thing we need to see, as Christians, is that people are hurting. This is true from all sides, and if so as Christians, we have only one proper response: To “weep with those who weep.” We must weep for those who have lost their lives. We must mourn for the families who have had their lives turned upside down. Tears should flow freely over a world so broken by sin. When we see our neighbors suffering and struggling to deal with loss, fear, or even anger, we must come alongside them and join them in their struggle. Christian compassion leaves us no other choice. The love of our neighbors that Jesus commanded gives us no other option. (Matthew 22:39)

I was reminded this morning of Jesus just before he raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus knew he was going to raise him, he knew the end of the story, yet what does he do when he sees the sister of Lazarus weeping? He too weeps. The Scripture says, “…he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” (John 11:33) and that “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)

Jesus identified with Mary in her pain and in her suffering. This is the type of compassion we as Christians must emulate. There were some who were standing by while Jesus wept, and they even accused him of “injustice” if you will…they said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37) Everyone didn’t understand the big picture, they didn’t have all the answers, but still they saw our savior weeping over the tragedy of death. In the same way, we may not have all the answers, but we do know how Jesus feels about the tragedy of death, and the reality of sin. He weeps and mourns over it. As we should.

There were others there that day, and as they saw Jesus weeping over the death of Lazarus and they said, “See how he loved him!” (John 11:36) So, too as people see us mourning with those who mourn, and weeping with those who weep, they will see our love. Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Can many of us honestly say people know us by our love? Does our love for others make it plain that we belong to Jesus?

Again, whether or not you agree that there is indeed systemic injustice, it doesn’t give you an out clause to not weep and mourn alongside our brothers and sisters who are hurting. Whether or not we know all of the variables, doesn’t excuse us from the command to love our neighbors. If our political slants, beliefs, and agendas get in the way of our compassion and love for others, then the truth is we need to reevaluate ourselves, and where we are with Jesus.

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…” (Revelation 21:4)

Amen. Come quickly, Lord Jesus…

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SGM, CJ, & What’s Killing Me…

jesus child

In the circles I run in the scandal involving Sovereign Grace Ministries and C.J. Mahaney has been getting a lot of coverage, and rightly so. I won’t go into all the details as most of you reading this I’m sure already know the gist of the situation. If not, a quick internet search will clue you in.

For the most part, outside of my immediate circle, I’ve remained mostly quiet for several reasons. Some of which are a bit selfish, others because I am trying to use right judgement. One, I don’t want to be mistaken for what is commonly referred to as a “watch blogger.” I don’t mean this in a derogatory way. I believe these blogs provide a valuable service to the church in many cases in holding powerful individuals and ministries accountable, but that just isn’t my gig. I would prefer to spend my time telling people about Jesus.

There are also some of these blogs who have a reputation for targeting large ministries simply to get readers. Pick a controversial topic or ministry, blog on it, and traffic will come. It’s a great way to gain notoriety in the blogging world. Sadly, at times it becomes almost like a witch hunt. I have no desire for this type of reputation.

In this particular case with SGM and CJ, I also simply don’t know enough about the situation to make bold statements of fact. I know which way the evidence seems to point in this particular case, and it doesn’t look good for SGM or C.J., but I would hate to burn them at the stake, only to find that I was misinformed, or there were extenuating circumstances that I simply wasn’t aware of. Again, what is being reported is ugly, and seems pretty damning…but I simply don’t feel comfortable making bold proclamations of guilt just yet. There are certainly other issues at play, but these are the main ones that have caused me to remain mostly quiet.

As I’ve watched all of this play out though, there is one thing that is simply killing me, that I feel like I have to say. Sadly, it’s something that I’ve not heard many people talk about. In all of our talking and bickering about who knew what and when is the very real fact that there are victims of sexual abuse, whose lives have been turned upside down, and in some cases nearly ruined. This should be our main focus. I’m grateful that there are many that have realized this and are speaking up about this fact, and advocating for the victims because this should be our main source of heartbreak.

But something else comes along with this. No matter what you believe about SGM or C.J. Mahaney, one thing is certain…There has been little to no evidence of repentance or concern for these victims. This is something that many people are missing, and it’s absolutely killing me. Again, I can’t speak to who knew what and when, though like I said, the evidence at this point seems to lean heavily that someone knew something and remained quiet about it. Either way, the fact of the matter is…NOW WE KNOW. And now that we know, where are the statements of sorrow and sadness from the leaders of this ministry, C.J. included? Sure, we’ve had some half-hearted statements, maybe even hints of regret…but nothing that truly seems as if these leaders are truly genuinely sorry for the victims.

I read a news story today about the Pope. He compared sexual abuse by priests to a “Satanic Mass” and proclaimed that his church has a zero tolerance policy towards those who would sexually abuse children. He also has scheduled to meet with several victims of abuse. Say what you will about the Catholic Church, but in regards to this situation, they are starting to get it. Instead of focusing on covering their own butts, the focus is now on the victims. There has been repentance, and now they are moving forward from the scandals that has rocked the church over the last several years. In caring for the victims, they are truly modeling the love of Christ. Sure it’s taken them a long time to get to this point, but at least they are there.

Yet, as you look to SGM, you see an organization that has shown little to no compassion for the victims of sexual abuse in their own midst. And, no matter what you believe, or even what really happened behind closed doors within SGM and under C.J. Mahaney’s watch, the fact is there were failures in leadership. Even IF there was truly no wrong done by the leaders, the fact is, something went wrong. This being true, there are real victims of real abuse who are suffering as a direct result of being involved in this ministry that these leaders were leading. This being true, as a leaders, they must take responsibility, and  must do ALL they can to reach out to the victims. This simply has not happened thus far. Steadily what we’ve seen from everyone associated with SGM and C.J. Mahaney is an attempt to look out for themselves, and the organization. This is tragic. This is what is killing me.

I don’t say any of this as one who has an axe to grind with Sovereign Grace Ministries, or C.J. personally. I’ve long respected the work of SGM and I’ve benefited greatly from the teachings and books of C.J. Mahaney. He and others who have rallied around him at this time were my ministry/theological heroes. Even now, I can hardly grasp what has happened. How can men, whose theology I so respect, have failed so epically to look out for “the least of these?”

This is what many people are not seeing. It doesn’t matter what you believe really happened, or who really knew what. There are real victims who are really suffering, and these men that I’ve so long respected have shown next to no concern for them. This is what is really killing me…

 

Come, you who are blessed by my Father

 “The LORD is high above all nations,
        and his glory above the heavens!
    Who is like the LORD our God,
        who is seated on high,
    who looks far down
        on the heavens and the earth?
    He raises the poor from the dust
        and lifts the needy from the ash heap,
    to make them sit with princes,
        with the princes of his people.
Psalm 113:4-8 ESV

This Psalm asks the question in verse 5, “Who is like the Lord our God?” The Psalm goes on to tell us that this God, is great, is majestic, and is reigning over all of creation, over both the heavens and the earth…it then tells us that this God, “looks FAR down on the heavens and the earth”. This God raises up the poor, lifts up the needy, and causes them to sit with princes…

Psalm 113 which begins and ends by telling us to, “Praise the Lord” tells us that this God who is so high above the nations, reigning from heaven, still looks down upon the earth to the poorest of the poor, the lowliest of the low…God cares for these folks that are often overlooked. When the Psalmist asks us, “Who is like the Lord our God?…” Shouldn’t we be able to say that we are? Aren’t we to reflect the image of God…Doesn’t Jesus exhort us to care for the ‘least of these’? Isn’t that the hallmark of Jesus’ ministry? Have we forgotten that we too were in fact the lowest of the low…yet God in his infinite mercy has looked down on us, showered us with grace, and has now in fact seated us with princes…the greatest of which is THE PRINCE, Jesus Christ.

When the Psalmist asks us, “Who is like the Lord our God…?” We understand that we are not God, but we also must understand that through the miracle of regeneration, we are being made into the image of Christ…we are to reflect Him. We too must care for the lowest of the low…we must love those whom society has forgotten, or even worse chooses to keep down and oppress. That is our calling as Children of God. We were the lowest of the low…we were in the ash heap…but this God infinite in steadfast love and mercy has raised us up and seated us with His Prince. Meditate on that often and let it color how you look at others…as a child of God, you cannot not be changed by that wondrous thought.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:34-40 ESV

What I’m asking myself…Help PLEASE!?!?

Today was one of the more interesting days I’ve ever had at work. A couple of things really worked together to make the day interesting, but one situation in particular has been playing on my mind, and I am curious to get some thoughts and insight from others. So here goes…

As I was working in the front of the store, I noticed a gentleman holding his side and sort of limping, walking towards me. When I saw him I immediately thought this guy was either homeless, or extremely down on his luck. As he approached the counter, he moved in closer to me so he could speak quietly. I had to listen closely because he had a bit of a speech impediment, or a lisp of some sort that made him a bit difficult to understand. The gentleman simply said, “I am a long ways from home, and was wondering if you knew of a good pastor, or deacon nearby that I could talk to?” After asking him to repeat himself, I wasn’t really sure what to say. I searched through my wallet, looking to see if I had a card that would have the number of a church I used to go to that was nearby, but of course I couldn’t find it. As I was fidgeting around it dawned on me, “Idiot(myself), even if you could find a number, he doesn’t have a phone!” I was working, and was a bit afraid of irritating my boss, or causing a stir at work, but I figured this was something I needed to deal with, so I called my boss and told him I needed to go outside for a little bit, I was going to try to help this guy.

I took the guy outside, and explained that I was a minister, and asked how I could help, and what he needed to talk about. After the gentleman apologized several times for his appearance, and for taking my time, he finally got on with explaining his situation. He told me he is from Richmond, Virginia but had been in Texas for a while. He really needed to get home, and somewhere along the way he was told if he could get to a town called “Sneads Ferry”, which is only about 15 miles from where I was, there was a “Christian” couple there who were on their way to Norfolk, Virginia the next morning and he could catch a ride with them. He had found someone to drop him off just outside our doors, but he needed a way to get the rest of the way to Sneads Ferry, and he needed some money so that he could stay at a hotel there, where the couple would pick him up. I told the guy that if he would stick around for a bit I would be happy to drive him, but I had no cash to give him for a room.

I noticed that after telling him I had no cash, he seemed a bit less interested in talking to me. I have to admit, as we were talking, I kept wondering to myself, “Is this guy for real? Is this guy just trying to take me for a ride? Is he just trying to take advantage of a ‘gullible’ Christian?” I felt horrible, and still feel bad thinking these things, but I just found it odd that he kept talking about finding a “pastor” or “deacon” or “some good Christians”(I think he used this description). I also found it odd, that as soon as he found out I wasn’t just going to give him money, he seemed to be less interested. I kept thinking to myself, “Does he just think a Christian is going to be an easier target, or does he just feel more comfortable going to someone who may be a little more compassionate?” Again I feel bad that these are the things that were going through my mind. I also found it odd that as I tried to press him a little bit, or ask more questions about himself, and his situation, he just didn’t really want to talk. All he wanted to talk about was getting to his destination, and money for a place to stay. I’m not entirely sure that the guy was totally mentally competent, so that could also have affected the conversation, and his approach to asking for help. I told the guy, that if he would stick around for a while, until I went on break, I would be happy to give him a ride, but again said, I had no cash. He informed me that he would try and find someone else to help him. I asked, if there was something I could pray for/with him about, or if there was more he wanted to talk about, or any other way I could help, and again, he said no. Still I told him, I would look for him while on break, which I did, but never did find him.

As I went back to work, really the rest of the day, I couldn’t get the guy out of my head. First off, I felt like a horrible person for having such suspicions of a guy I didn’t know, and really did seem to be in need. Secondly, I felt I should have done more, at least offered to get the guy a cab(still not sure why I didn’t think about that). Third, I wondered, even if the guy was trying to take me for a ride, is it my place to try to discern that? Shouldn’t I as a Christian just be willing to help, do what I can, and trust God to sort everything else out. And if I am going to err, isn’t it better to err on the “being too generous” side, rather than the other?

The Scripture that has been turning over in my head is quite obviously, Matthew 5:38-48, especially verse 42, “Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Also Matthew 25:35-40, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

I’ve been told before that we must be wise with our money and resources…I agree. I’ve also been told by a friend of mine, as relates to similar situations that we have to be discerning as to when our mercy ceases to be mercy. I’ve also even heard the “throwing pearls before swine” argument. But I wonder at what point does God give us that “out” clause? When does He say to “use your best judgement, and know when to not help someone in need, so they can learn to help themselves.” How do you know when the “swine” really is a “swine”?

I’ve heard someone say, and I think it is a tremendously true statement, that we use the fact that Jesus uses hyperbole, as an excuse not to take Him seriously, and to do nothing. It’s true to a great degree. How many times after reading one of Jesus’ hard statements, do preachers try to explain it away, or say, “Yeah, but what He really meant was….” We’ve all heard that, and we’ve all done that to some degree. Did I do that today?

That’s what I’m asking myself, and I would really like some feedback, and would really like to hear some thoughts, and have some discussion on this matter. This is something I’ve thought about often. I would also appreciate responses to be backed up with Scripture if possible….I would also ask you guys to pray for this guy, whatever is going on, he is in need. I pray he realizes his biggest need is Christ, and somewhere along the way I pray, he finds exactly what he needs.

Thanks guys, I look forward to hearing from you…