Saturday, January 13, 2007

Supporting every probable scheme

I think ‘being all things to all people’ has as much to do with cultures as individuals. In a third word culture it may be that words are more valued than in the American culture, where in many ways, Christian words are ridiculed. Where we have ‘Saturday Night Live’, and a host of other magazines, shows and movies, making a mockery of Christianity. In addition we have TBN and other Christian television stations that include some programs that do not portray the meek and humble spirit of Christ, and some of which have had scandals attached to them. In our culture, my belief is we need a different approach to win the lost and exalt the name of Christ.
In America we have such an abundance of Christian conversation, that I think the hearers have gone numb. It seems obvious to me that there is a low-grade hostility towards Christianity. I, for one, do not think this is a rejection of God or of spiritual things, but rather a repulsion to hypocrisies, true or perceived, and a rejection of some attempts to win the world with an ‘in your face’ attitude,
‘Way of the Master” radio program comes to mind.
Among other things, we submit to those we admire and respect. Of all the attributes of the comprehensible form of God, Jesus Christ, we see
A man we admire and respect like none other, before or since.

Doctrine is food for a hungry soul; we create appetite with deeds of love, mercy, and kindness.

It has been said so much better by John Brown, born in 1780 who taught thousands of students through his classes and C.H. Spurgeon admired him highly and said he ‘set the standard’ in his works.

“Few things are more fitted to soften prejudices against, and produce a disposition fairly and favorably to consider the claims of, Christianity, than Christian individuals and societies, cheerfully, and liberally, and laboriously supporting every probable scheme that is brought forward for lessening the mass of human suffering, in the form of poverty and disease, and for increasing the sum of human health and enjoyment. These are subjects in which men of the world can take an interest, and of which they can form a just judgment. Of the excellence of peculiar doctrines of Christianity, of the internal holiness which the faith of those doctrines is intended to produce, and actually does produce, they can form no just estimate, and they speak evil of things which they know not.
But to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to console the distressed, to provide means of recovery for the bodily or mentally diseased, appear to them “ things good and profitable unto men;” and when they perceive Christians discovering a readiness to make sacrifices, to expend time, and property, and labor, to gain such objects, in a degree far superior to that of men not possessed of Christian principles, the natural effect is, to lead them to inquire into the cause of the difference; and finding what a Christian should never be backwards to avow, that it is the result of their peculiar views and feelings as Christians, their prejudices are softened, and they are furnished with a motive to examine into what these principles are, and are placed in more favorable circumstances for entering on such an examination, and conducting it to a desirable issue.
This consideration, of itself, ought to be felt by every Christian as a powerful motive to comply with the injunction in the text, “Be pitiful.”


fcb4 said...

I loved this line:

"Doctrine is food for a hungry soul; we create appetite with deeds of love, mercy, and kindness."

But looking back on my pre-christ days, I must confess that my heart was hard to human suffering. I wasn't drawn to Jesus by the acts of other people. I'm not sure if that ever came into my mind concerning Christ. Did it for you? I am curious.

Actually in my case, I think the above sentence was flipped for me. Deeds of love, mercy and kindness emerged after doctrine of God shed light in my heart and mind. In fact an appreciation for meekness, humility, kindness, sacrifice had to be infused or awakened in me. God like affections were like excalibur stuck in the stone of my heart and were only loosed by His hand.

Interesting thoughts for sure....there is a book on world missions written by a pastor from India that addresses the issue of "bread christians" as he calls them. Yohannna is his name I think, he goes after the missionaries that approach the gospel from the table first and has some really controversial and challenging things to say. When I read it, I didn't like what he said but it has stuck in my craw like a chicken bone. Now working with the urban poor...I see "bread christians" emerging. It has really challenged my thinking on some of the issues.

I think Jesus said a lot about miracle, sign and hungry bellies being the motivation for many that followed Him instead of a sincere desire to know the truth.

Hard issue for me. I can't stand the "way of the master" stuff either, but sandwiches dont save people matter how John Lennon like it may appear.

What do you think?

FCB said...

I remember the first time I realized that people did things for others without agenda; I was in a church gymnasium where a woman was making posters for the children that were coming for some event, maybe VBS? I can't remember a word she said but I realized she was giving her time and efforts expecting nothing in return. It has stuck with me ever since.
That being said, don't miss the line, "supporting every probable scheme". I believe that most come to Christ by the efforts of individuals, these efforts vary with as much difference as the personalities that minister. Whatever effort that is made to lessen the suffering and bring enjoyment to the person is a noble effort, and not without reward.
Enjoyment, meaning bringing joy, hope, purpose etc.
The context of the piece is to be pitiful, or having eyes and hearts of compassion. The mode of expression varies with the need, and certainly a "word in season" may often be the very act of compassion needed.
In addition, like I began the piece, I see the methods to reach the US and our culture as very different from many other countries.
But the intent of the piece is not to be the last word on evangelism, but the first word, be compassionate and zealous for good works.
Something like that.....

matblue said...

I agree that evangelism is different according to situations, not sure about culture. When I met the father of the boy with the tumor, he was in a desperate situation, I responded to them with compassion, I was broken by seeing them, the truth is I had to really try and keep myself together because I felt so awful for the boy. I had no intentions of "telling" him about Christ, in fact I assumed they were Christians already because there are many in that area. So anyway I began to plead their case and help with a plan of evacuation for the boy. The father must have thought I was an angel, or a good man. I was just doing the only thing I could live with probably selfish too because I never thought once about his wife and other kids he left behind. But anyway as we became closer I came to find out he worshiped the Elephant religion, a twisted offshoot of Christianity where they quit using the Bible and worship a white elephant. He said he had grew up Christian but his wife was Elephant so because she refused to change he converted. As a friend I told him I was very dissapointed by his decision, he said his mother said the same thing. I then went on to tell him that he is the man of the house and he has a duty to lead. He agreed with all of it. Then I told him that as much as we wanted to help his child and the Drs as well, only Christ can heal. He said he understood that too. After this our team prayed a Christian prayer and he silently returned to Christ. When I met him in the hospital I brought him two bibles, one a picture bible for his son who likes to be read too. He was very grateful, and in this way I felt God had used me. I don't think I could have done it without having his trust and him seeing me care for his child. Thanks to God for using us. Anyway rarely do I see God use me in this way, but it was clearly evident, and Dave agreed to this. But I want to say that the man could have been a person on the street in Portland or Spokane, who was in desperate need. I think it has more to do with how willing our hearts are to see their need. Like you said our being "pitiful". For me I have kind of always had a heart for the downtrodden or immigrant, but haven't always had a relationship with Christ to share.

This also raises the ante for his son's recovery, which at the moment looks very dismal, they think likely cancer, but they can't do a biopsy until he is healed of his secondary diseases. So please keep Bright Little Moon in prayer.

FCB said...

That was a great response, I love hearing about the circumstances surrounding "Moon". When I posted this piece I thought of both you and Eric and how God has awakened compassion in both of you and it is a driving force in your ministries.
Nearly every encounter I have begins with a sense of sympathy or compassion. Occasionally I will find myself in a situation that has been thrust on me, but ordinarily when I approach someone it is because I feel for them or sense a need. It is almost never done out of 'Christian duty'.
I don't look for opportunities to shovel the gospel down an unsuspecting canidate, but rather look and listen for a leading. Should I plant, water or harvest, or just love or give care, recognizing that is enough and of value.
That being said, it is my perspective based on my personality and emotional make-up, and I have stood in the streets along side brothers with the gift of preaching saying to myself-"preach it brother, preach it."