Thoughts on Welcoming the Weak

In wider cultural circles, Christians often come under attack for failing to express to one another those virtues which we say are so important. I’m talking about things like love, sympathy, acceptance, and showing undeserved kindness.

This is, in one sense, a decoy topic for someone who has refused to consider the claims of Jesus. All too often their reasons amount to nothing more than excuses which avoid, rather than seriously engage, the truth claims of the faith.

Think about it. Don’t deep divides within the fields of evolutionary biology about just how the world came to be separate the most scholarly in the field? Yet such divides are not singled out for forming a reasonable basis for rejecting evolutionary biology. The same goes for politics. Deep divides within the a political party in American society are not a sound basis for rejecting said political party, or politics, as a whole.

In fact, in every area of public life, quarrels over fairly minor points are disputed between friends: “You like the NFL, I like the NFL; you like the AFC, I like the AFC; you like the AFC East, I like the AFC East; you like the Cowboys, I…click.” You get the idea.

Yet, I suspect that Christians are singled out in a special way for hypocrisy here because of the claims of the Christian faith itself: Continue reading

Your Duty to the Poor: Some Cautions and Commands.

Recently in my study of the Gospel of Luke, I was reminded that we have a duty to those who are materially poor, and that duty is to remember them by sharing what we have with them. There are qualifiers to this duty; it is not an absolute duty. Here are three qualifiers to your duty to the poor.

a. Not all duties are equal. Thus, we owe to God our duty first, and then to our immediate family. Furthermore, if we are Christians, we owe our charity and material support to those, first, who are “of the household of faith” (Galatians 6), and only after to those who are “without.”

b. Giving may be harmful, not helpful. Habitat for Humanity requires “sweat equity” from those who receive houses from them, as a way of checking the harmful effects of giving. When you’re invested in something, you tend to care more about it. Continue reading

Postcards from Grateful Hearts

Because “mercy” is in our church’s name we try and make a point to look for people who need mercy and show it to them. Let me begin, though, with a few “mercy” caveats.

First, Christians don’t think mercy is limited to helping people who need money or food.

Second, God defines mercy, not people. Just because you think something is (or isn’t) merciful doesn’t mean God automatically agrees (or disagrees) with you. For example, mercy includes all kinds of things, some of which aren’t popular. It is merciful to speak up for children who may be murdered through an abortion procedure. It is merciful to speak the truth to men and women who are perishing in their sin. It may be merciful to be silent in the face of someone’s suffering.

Third, Christians don’t think this is a substitute for preaching the Gospel, nor do we think that somehow we’re earning God’s favor for what we do. We think, on the contrary, that if we have heard the Gospel preached, we have all the favor from God we need. Which is such good news that we want to share and show it to others who haven’t yet tasted and seen that the Lord is good.

Which gets me to the point of this post, “postcards from grateful hearts.” This past Christmas some folks at Mercy Hill had opportunity to partner with some generous people (some Christians, some not) who wanted to share with people who had financial needs. Continue reading