HELPING IN TODAY’S CULTURAL CLIMATE

Helping people in need is imminently biblical. This is not even open for any rational discussion. Nevertheless, at the risk of being completely misunderstood, I want to address a matter of priority that seems to need clarification. I enter this post with caution, trepidation, and uneasiness, yet enter I will.

Though I am usually well behind most folks when trends dawn on me, eventually awareness makes its way into my head. Of late, a shift towards what was once styled the “Social Gospel” strikes me as an emphasis making a comeback. In the company of this return, I also sense a growing ascetic spirit floating around.

I get it that our culture in America is significantly materialistic and I also realize the need to do regular self-analyses to discover if I have become possessed by my possessions. As a Christian, these are not small matters. The Bible has much to say in this area. However, I think I see a baby headed out the window with its bath water in this one.

Maybe I am simply justifying that I have stuff. I have not sold my stuff to feed and house the unfortunate, though I have spent considerable time and money helping people in need. Not only that, I do not believe such a virtual total divesting of my stuff is supposed to be the defining mark of my Christianity. I do not believe Jesus came primarily to feed people and make them well. He could have done both of these things to every person in Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, but He did not. What He did do was preach and teach as many people as He could about matters tied to eternity.

Yes, we should share our blessings. A lack of compassion cannot walk in fellowship with the Good News about Jesus. Yet, the Great Commission is about salvation. Granted, compassion can and will open doors, but only the Gospel can open the doors of Hades to free its captives (Rev. 1:18). Well fed and housed lost people eventually die without Jesus (cf. Jn. 6:49).

I don’t intend to be guilted into a quick fix “Christianity” that either substitutes being kind for speaking a good word for Jesus or liquidating my possessions for proclaiming truth. I reiterate; Jesus saves! Churches are groups of people primarily in the business of growing in Christ-likeness so they may help the lost become saved.

I appreciate congregations, such as the one I attend, which have very well thought out assistance initiatives. But, pardon what may seem to some as mere self-justification, let Christians in their compassionate sharing be known without apology for talking to people about the Christ.

 

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Will the Cycle Go Unbroken?

              It is said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” I do suspect sins of omission are a significant component of said road. We often have very noble intentions that we just never seem to accomplish. Time passes, passion for our goals slowly abates, and we forget until something jogs our memory.

            For some, however, the norm is defeated. For the few, good intentions become entries of exemplary progress on their journal of life. Why so few successes? Why does the cycle of business-as-usual so often go unbroken? What characterizes the exceptions to the rule?

            As acknowledged, sometimes, the whole lackluster trend of well-intended-neglect finds an exception. Every now and again people rise up to do truly extraordinary deeds (Neh. 2:18-20; 4:6). On occasion, a world slumbering in its cynicism gets a good case of the cold shivers as they see greatness. Once in a while, the unnoticed ho hum of normality actually changes into a cannot-be-missed wonderment (Acts 17:6).

            How can we be part of exceptional happenings? First, as we take time to reflect on the many good things we might pursue, let us recall God’s remembrances of our needs and offer gracious thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a great motivation for godly, personal expressions of service.

            Second, as we purpose to do good things that will bring praise to God, remember not to let good or better hinder us from accomplishing what is best. To be so hindered would be to squander an opportunity to achieve “exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). Great goals sought with God’s great power to bless our efforts can excite and motivate us to consistently move forward.

            God has placed wonderful potential in our hands. The good things we purpose may well become amazing, awe inspiring blessings for our good God. There is only one way to find out. In a world of unrealized intentions leading to a cycle of repeated disappointments, will the cycle be unbroken?