A Leper, Jesus, Some Children, and World Vision

At the end of Mark chapter one is a story about a leper which you can read here. This leper was an unclean man. But apparently he heard about the kingdom ministry Jesus was doing, which included healing people of their diseases. So he approached Jesus in hopes that Jesus would heal him of his leprosy.

This leper said to Jesus, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (v. 40).

Did you catch that? The leper did not ask whether Jesus was able to make him clean, he asked if Jesus was willing to heal him. That’s because the leper was apparently used to Jesus’ contemporaries ignoring him, wanting nothing to do with him and unwilling to offer him any help.

Now to be fair, Jesus’ contemporaries, the Jewish religious people, had their reasons. After all, all they had to do was cite Leviticus 13:45-46 as justification for the way they treated the leper… if they were looking for a biblical proof-text to hang their hat on. But the truth is, this is the sort of reasoning that happens when a hobby-horse issue couched as a “moral principle” is placed above doing justice and showing mercy… when principle is placed above people.

And this made Jesus “indignant” (v. 41).

Angry, that is.

And it makes me angry too!

Just the same, it makes me angry that some Christians would encourage other Christians to withdraw support of World Vision and sponsorship of children through World Vision because this organization decided to employ people living in a same-sex marriage (read about this here). It makes me angry not because I agree with the decision World Vision made (which it has now reversed) but because once again, more principle is placed above people, above doing justice and showing mercy.

Let’s be honest. Every day we, who call ourselves “Christians,” give money to businesses and organizations that champion values and engage in practices that do not conform to the kingdom of God. In fact, we are probably wearing clothing manufactured with unfair wages and unjust labor practices. But that doesn’t stop us because it’s not our hobby-horse issue. So the suggestion that Christians should stop supporting World Vision and sponsoring children through World Vision because of a decision made that we disagree with just suggests that a that this is more about the sensibilities of an Evangelical hobby-horse issue than it is doing what’s right.

Yes, I said that. You see, whatever you think about World Vision and the decision they made, the children who are supported through their organization have nothing to do with that decision. And their needs, which are many, remain!

My wife and I sponsor two children through World Vision, Marita and Payal. There are other child-sponsoring organizations such as Compassion International and if you sponsor a child through one of these organizations, then I encourage you to continue doing so. My wife and I went with World Vision simply because when the opportunity came to sponsor our first child, World Vision was the organization we were speaking with. Are we to just dump these children over a decision they had nothing to do with? Seriously…

My wife and I have absolutely no intention of changing our sponsorship of these children because our sponsorship is not about World Vision or our own beliefs on certain moral issues. Sponsoring these children is about sharing the blessings of God, the love God bestows upon us, with these children who are as worthy of such blessings as we are.

Some Christians spend a lot of energy talking about their hobby-horse issues and raising a ruckus when someone goes against what they believe. That when the Bible often gets wielded around as a weapon, with someone quickly saying, “The Bible says…” I actually get that and I get that people are passionate about certain issues. Believe me, I really do. I’m pretty passionate about certain issues too. I only hope that we’re as much doers of the word as we are talkers about the the word. And I hope that standing on our moral high ground will never come at the expense of helping people in need, especially children.

One thing we can be sure of… When moral principle comes at the expense of children, these children cry out to Jesus, “If you are willing…”

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7 responses to “A Leper, Jesus, Some Children, and World Vision

  1. Rex,

    I would agree with you if World Vision were the only agency doing relief projects. If someone has chosen World Vision because they are a faith-based relief organization, that decision has been made on the religious values of the organization. When those values change, its more than proper for someone to re-evaluate their support.

    There are other choices. There are other faith-based agencies doing excellent work. This only becomes an issue if the people stop supporting relief work all together.

    If someone has chosen World Vision because of their Christian values, then withholding that support is perfectly justified when those values change, as long as the support is still given through other channels.

    • Tim,

      So on what grounds do a Christian decide to re-evaluate their support, even withdraw that support, of a faith-based organization? I’m looking for coherency because, as I contend, Christians give support to a lot of different organizations which they don’t share the same exact values with. It speaks volumes when certain issues are elevated over the other and all the while, in this case, it’s the children who suffer the results.

      As I said in the post, My wife and I didn’t choose World Vision. We choose to support children and World Vision just happens to be the vehicle through which we do this. So there values matter little to me, so long as the funds are used ethically. It’s just like giving money to the Salvation Army during the holidays. The giving is to help people in need, not to support a particular organization. However, if we were aiming to support the organization, such as World Vision, then the values would matter.

      So, I might be wrong but it just seems like the call among Evangelical Christians to jettison sponsorship of children through World Vision seems to be more about Evangelical Christianity’s theo-political sensibilities than fidelity to the gospel here.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

  2. Rex, I admire your courage very much. My question to some would be, “Do you know the beliefs, views and practices of all the authors of your books, even the publishers of your Bibles?”. To be consistent many would only be able to buy from Gospel Advocate and Star.

  3. To add to my comment above I would ask them, “How many books and Bibles do you have published by HarperCollins, a liberal publishing company. I believe we can assume where they stand on LGBT issues.

  4. I’m pretty picky about who I give my money to. I don’t give to the Salvation Army because of dealings I had with them in Argentina. There are times when I’m more comfortable giving to a secular group than to a religious group that promotes things I don’t agree with.

    Admittedly, some of this has to do with my views on organizations in general. Their aim quickly becomes continuing survival rather than efficient service.

    Frankly, you did choose World Vision. They are better than some, with 85% of donations going to the causes they support. Still, 15% of your donation goes to the organization, not to the children.

    You asked on what grounds people should choose to withhold support from certain groups. I would say that a public announcement on an issue would be grounds for at least considering a change. If you are wealthy enough to give to hundreds of different organizations, that could be hard to keep up with. If you only give to a few, isn’t it worth your time to keep up with them? If you feel that marijuana usage is wrong and they announce a policy allowing for such, I think that should lead you to consider redirecting your funds. I’m not talking about breaking into their offices and searching through their files; World Vision made a public announcement of a policy change. Good stewardship would lead us to read that announcement and evaluate it alongside our beliefs.

    You say the fact that World Vision is a faith-based organization didn’t play into your decision to give through them. Fine. Keep supporting them as you would the United Way or any other group. I don’t have a problem with that.

    Just don’t criticize people who choose to make decisions based on their beliefs.

    • Tim,

      Perhaps I wouldn’t be so critical if Evangelical Christianity was more consistent in there quickness to denounce. But when only a very select issue raises their judgment, at the expense of people in need, I strongly suspect that the reaction is more about their own theo-political culture than anything else while neglecting the weightier matters of the law. But at the end of the day, we each must go with our conscience.

      Grace and Peace,

      Rex

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