I Struggle (Pt. 2)

Earlier tonight, just after my church’s Wednesday Evening Bible Study dismissed, a man entered are building. He had a fairly neat appearance but still somewhat disheveled, enough that I figured he was seeking some sort of benevolence help. My congregation is located along one of the busier streets in Memphis in a lower economic section of the city. I introduced myself and asked his name (I always try to speak to people like they are important and are a friend), and he said his name was Richard (if that was the truth). He said that his family was stuck in Jackson, MS and he needed enough gas to get him to Jackson and back (which is a three hour round trip). The church agreed that I would take the church credit card to the gas station and fill this man’s gas tank up for him.

While getting the credit card from the church office along with my friend, colleague, and mission partner, there was a commotion taking place. It turned out that this man, who called himself Richard, had stolen a purse from my friend’s wife in front of her children. Nobody was physically harmed, the man got away, and my friend’s wife was able to recover her purse and all of her belongings.

After the police came and finished filling out their investigative report, my family gathered with my friend’s family and another family and I led a prayer thanking God that there was no physical harm done to anyone, as such a scenario could have turned out much worse. We also prayed for Richard that he would be released from what ever evil presence captivated him so much that he was willing to commit a crime and endanger the lives of others for his own sake.

Sounds good, huh? But I was really dishonest. We are taught to pray for our enemies, to love our enemies, etc… That is what I wanted to do but in all honesty, when I was praying, I was hoping that Richard would be caught and would receive the full weight of the law. I was really wishing that I could have caught him so that I might be able to give him a little “old-school” justice. I was… You get the point!

And now as I have had some time to reflect, I wonder. I wonder why I did not see this coming. After all, he was a stranger. But I have been taught to welcome the stranger (i.e. Matt. 25.31-46). Well maybe I should not have been so trusting of this man. But I try not to judge people based on the present status but rather based on what they could be in Christ (i.e. 2 Cor. 5.16 – heck, that’s even part of my ministry philosophy). And while I struggle, I must not forget the very important thing – my actions, good or bad, affect more people than just myself.

So why am I ranting about this. Well, at my church I just finished preaching a series of sermons on how we should treat the poor, weak, disconnected, and needy individuals in our society, trying to encourage greater faith in ministering to those people who sometimes scare us middle-class white folks. The problem is that most of these people in our neighborhood also have personal demons and addictions that make them a possible danger to be around.

So I continue to struggle. I struggle to treat these people with grace, dignity, love, and genuine compassion despite what ever reasons I suspect may have played a role in forming their present lifestyle. I struggle because the life of Jesus tells me and calls me to welcome these people without reservation, but my experience (especially when it’s your friend’s wife who is the victim) tells me to be cautious and never trust.

And so I continue to struggle…

8 responses to “I Struggle (Pt. 2)

  1. Hi,
    I just read your Struggle and it is hard to do what is “right” according to Jesus. He says, basically, that if someone steals from you then give them more. I am at work and dont have the Bible here to look up the scripture “if someone steals your tunic, then give them your coat”, or something like that. Dont turn them away. I have asked and some preachers have said that refers to only other “brothers” in Christ and if someone is not saved then treat them like a normal thief. I don’t buy that though. We are to represent Christ, which basically is showing love to each other. It is very hard to do that when someone wrongs us though and that makes it very hard for us to understand how God does it. I feel that way anyway. I pray to Him for help me with something, and then when He gives it to me I still sin. Basically doing the same thing that man did to you. He asked you for help, and then when you were helping him, he “sinned” against you. Difference is God forgives me and will give to me again if I “repent”, or apologize sincerely, all the while knowing I will sin again. But we have a hard time forgiving someone who steals from us. I guess what I am saying in my rambling is that I know what you are feeling and have been there/done that. Still do it too, I guess to some extent. But we cannot live in the past, just focus on the good, forgive, and move on without feeling too bad. God forgives and forgets so I guess we need to as well. I basically believe us Christians are just like everyone else, only we recognize our faults and are trying to be better people, whereas the “others” are content in their state of living.

  2. Rich,

    Thanks for your comment and you are right, the way in which Jesus calls us to treat others is not just to other Christians but to the entire world. I have really became convicted that Christians, who now no longer belong to the old kingdoms of this world ut now belong to the new and in-breaking kingdom of God, are called to live by the moral/ethic of God’s kingdom. That mean we live in this world like it is in heaven. Any ways, a book you may be interested in reading is by Lee C. Camp and it is titled “Mere Discipleship: Radical Christianity in a Rebellious World.” It was published by Brazos Press.

  3. Hi again,
    I will have to check out the book you suggested and give it a read. I love to learn different aspects of all things, but especially when it comes to God and our purpose in life. I have always looked at life this analogy: I have a job that sends me to Germany to accomplish a task. Now while I am there, if I happen to see the sights and have a good time then great, thats an added benefit, but if I dont then thats fine too. My main purpose there is to get my job done and then come home. I would be excited to come home because I would KNOW what awaits me. Thats what we are like here, but we dont really KNOW what awaits for us when we get home. Jesus remembered and was anxious to get back, like we should be. So I try to live like God sent me here to do something for Him, and my job is to figure out what it is and do it. If I get rich, or have a great time then great, if not then thats fine too. Thats not the reason I am here.

    Hope I didnt ramble too much..LOL.

    Have a good weekend.

    Rich

  4. I can relate to this. Is it fear? Pride? Apathy? Or maybe a combination of all of these things. I have to remind myself of Jesus and how he was with people. It is a humbling thing for me. After all, what makes me so special that Jesus had to be around all those sinners, theives, prostitutes, and such, and I think I shouldn’t have to? Jesus was on a rescue mission, so I think I need to have the same attitude. I might be the only glimpse of true compassion and hope a person might experience. The voice in my head is “freely you have received, freely give.” Thanks Rex, for your comments

  5. Fear? Pride? Apathy? Well, if I was to pick, I would want to say fear. However, I am afraid that it is probably a combination of all three but not sure of what order.

    At Harding Graduate School of Religion where I attend, are theme is the Holiness of God. One thing that has been pointed out is how Holiness came and dwelt among unholiness in the incarnation of Jesus. But something else I have thought abuot. If we as Christians could ever grasp the Holiness of God (and thus grasp our unholiness) then we would not look at other people, who’s sins leave their mark in an outward physicall expression, and pass judgment on them because we would then recognize that we are the same as them in one sense — we are an unholy people full of sin, the only difference between us and them is we have found grace. Now shouldn’t we help them find grace?

  6. That is exactly true what you have said. I have gone through several addictions and still struggle with some areas of sin in my life, and I have learned that I cannot look at someone elses sin and think “at least I didnt do that”. I have tried so hard to never pass judgement on anyone, not only because the Bible tells me not too, but who am I to say that one sin is “less” than the other? They are ALL bad in Gods eyes. So bad that He HAD to die for us to be saved. He, being God, could have choosen a different method, or just let it all slide, like we tend to do……but His Holiness DEMANDS payment for sins. Its hard for us to grasp that. He had to die for us in order for us to have a chance at salvation. So if I drink, and someone else is a murderer? Who is worse? In our eyes, the murderer, but in Gods eyes, we both are the same. I try to live by what Jesus said “remove the plank from your own eye before you look at the spec in your brothers.” ( or something close to that). My wife says it must be hard to do, but really, I have found that it actually frees me from a lot of hatred that other people have for the “wicked”. I dont carry anger over stuff that other people carry when I hear them getting angry over the water fountain at work, about someone who didnt even do something directly to them, but yet they still get so angry talking about it. I just smile and let them know that we dont know the shoes they have had to walk in to make them think the way they do.

    I have been working lots and havent posted lately. Hope you are doing OK.

    Rich

  7. Hey,
    Guess what a coincidence this is. My wifes check book and bank card got stolen from her purse yesterday and the person got $350 before she noticed it gone. That was our mortgage money. The bad part is it is someone she works with and thought they were friends. She filed a police report and all, but she wants to kick the girls butt and I am trying to forgive too. I am trying to live like I said I do in an earlier post. I dont know why someone would steal from a “friend”. I have been asking God today to help her get back on her feet, to get rid of that demon that makes her feel the need to steal. Whether its drugs or food, to help her with her needs so she can kick that demon. I found myself getting angry with my wife until I remembered this post and how I need to see the other persons side and forgive them. God works in mysterious ways huh? 🙂

    Rich

  8. Rich, I am glad this post helped you consider what is the right attitude and action to take in this particular struggle. I am sorry that your wife was a victim of theft. I do not know why, but there si something about stealing that just gets under my skin a little more than other sinful actions. Maybe it is because who ever does the stealing does so in secret like a coward.

    Any ways, I am not sure why things turn out the way they do but it is funny how we are given a test to see whether we have integrity with our personal convictions. What happened to you and your wife is an integrity check to see whether you will sucomb to the anger you feel or will you practice forgiveness to those who seriously wrong you.

    Stand firm, you will be blessed for being faithful to your convictions. I not sure when and where, but faithfulness is rewarded (Matt. 5.5, 7).

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