Wednesday, March 26, 2014

World Vision & True Compassion

In light of the recent tizzy over World Vision’s decision to hold a “neutral” view on homosexuality within the believing community, World Vision -Why We Are Hiring Gay Christians in Same Sex Marriage I am putting my thoughts into writing.

(for update, scroll to bottom. Otherwise, the original post is as follows.)

Many pastors and church leaders whom I respect greatly have already released statements on the exact topic, and I wholeheartedly agree with them. I’m not here to write another statement. I’m here because this situation has spiraled other thoughts in my mind and I have the freedom to post them in a blog. 
But, you can check out the pastors’ statements here:

Yes, Homosexuality is a sin, along with every other kind of sexual immorality. (Romans 1, 1 Cor 6, 1 Timothy 1) And to not treat it as such is to accept it. But I want to look at this situation through a question my mind has asked: If the message of the gospel is compromised, is compassion even true compassion anymore? 

“Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.” Taken from World Vision’s website under “Why We Serve”
You can read more under their Core Values: World Vision: Who We Are 

I’ve seen this all over social media, and even where I haven’t seen it, I know there is a divide in the Christian community on whether or not to condone this action by World Vision. After all, are we really going to get up in arms over one little cultural/moral hot-spot when the lives of helpless children & families are at stake? Aren’t their lives most important?
Well, Yes. And Yes. I honestly don’t think you can have one without the other. And here’s why:
I believe without the true gospel being preached, when we show compassion on someone’s physical needs, we're really just giving them a more comfortable journey straight on their way to eternal separation from God. We’re saying, “Here, we love you! Live a long life with warm clothes on your back, shoes on your feet, a full belly, a job. God loves you!” While neglecting to share the terrible truth that they are in danger of facing judgement for their sin and  the wonderful truth that they don't actually have to face it because of God’s unconditional love for us demonstrated in Christ...  But no big deal, right? At least they’re better off than they were. Wrong. (And maybe you'd argue that World Vision hasn't thrown out the entire gospel message. You're right. It hasn't gone that far...yet.)

When the gospel is compromised in an attempt to better show compassion, I would go as far to say it’s no longer true Christian compassion.

You see, I’ve been studying Jesus’ Compassion - our model for showing compassion. When He was moved with compassion for someone physically, it ALWAYS fell under the shadow of his compassion for them spiritually, eternally. The gospel was foremost. That they believe in Christ as Savior and turn from their sin was the heart of his compassion. He didn’t stop there, but was ALSO moved with compassion for their physical needs. But if we as Christians today begin to reshape the gospel by allowing sin to be treated as not sin, the gospel we preach becomes corrupted and false. And the message of our compassion-showing organizations, whether intentionally or not, becomes “physical compassion is more important than spiritual compassion.” We’ve reversed Christ’s example.

In Matthew 9:35-38, it is recorded,
“And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

First, notice the order Matthew has listed Jesus’ actions “teaching...proclaiming the gospel...and healing every disease.” hmmmm.

After this, his compassion is pointed out as he looks over the crowds. Why? Because they are “like sheep without a shepherd.” And he says to his disciples, “the harvest is plentiful...pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” This harvest they are looking for isn’t just an unnaturally healthy and disease-free generation of people. The harvest is an eternal one of salvation through faith in Christ. He has compassion because they have no one to lead and guide them. They have no one to care for them. He is concerned primarily with their salvation, but as can be expected in his compassion, it doesn’t stop there. It continues with their physical need. 
We, as believers in this generation, CANNOT reverse Christ’s example. What was most important to Him MUST be most important to us, because it IS most important. I'm not saying a person should never do something physically compassionate before they share the gospel. Hopefully you see my point is that the spiritual compassion drives the physical. It is the foundation and springboard!

In general, human lives span less than a century. But for Christians who believe in eternity, well, our lives go on forever after our less-than-a-century on earth is up. And in that eternity, we either suffer under the wrath we deserve for our sin, or we're covered by Christ's righteousness and exempt from that wrath- worshipping in the presence of the Holy God! 

I believe that Christians must be positively adamant about protecting and sharing the true gospel. As we become more like Christ, we will begin to display true compassion to others. Not only in their spiritual need, but also in their physical needs. 

This is why I personally disagree with the stance World Vision has taken on homosexuality: It is deviating from the true gospel. 
This is why I personally think World Vision is ultimately shooting themselves in the foot with their stance: When we choose to not uphold the true gospel, we cannot display true compassion.

A beautiful sermon by C. H. Spurgeon inspires me greatly on this subject of Christ’s compassion. I wholeheartedly encourage you to take 15 minutes to read it, or print it out and mull over it later this week. It’s worth your time.

The Compassion of Jesus

Hoping my thoughts spark some of your own,

UPDATE: afternoon of 3/26

World Vision has released a letter stating that it is reversing its decision & why. Check it out here.

World Vision Reverses Decision

I am praising the Lord that they have responded in this way. I am thankful for the way this situation turned around, and I am also thankful for the time this caused me to sit and reflect on true compassion and its relationship to the gospel.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Learning Joy

Wanna know my favorite thing about joy? That it comes from God. Not from circumstances, not from possessions, not from people. Which means that mere circumstances, possessions (or lack thereof) and people CAN’T take joy away.
It is a fruit produced when living in the Spirit. It is a gift given by God.

I met a lady recently who didn’t have much in this life, except for the beautiful hope of salvation in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Even without the best circumstances or possessions, she had a remarkably sincere, peaceful joy that I’ve been struggling in prayer to ask for since I met her.
She is a perfect example of what Paul prays in Romans 15:13 “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” She was abounding, and I long to abound as well.

Here’s what I know and believe and am asking for faith to believe more and more:
That my dear Savior, Jesus has called me to abide in His love by obeying His commands, and promises that His joy will be in me and my joy will be full. (From John 15)

This means that wherever I am, with whatever and whomever, when I am abiding in Him, I will experience the joy I’m called to have in Phil 4:4- “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” How beautiful is that?

This Summer, I believe I’ve been tested/am being tested to reveal if I have this abiding joy all the way to the deepest part of my soul- not just knowledge about it in my head and a mouth that says I believe it. Some of the tests, I’ve passed. Others, I’ve needed to heart-check and retake. God is refining me.

God has called me to participate in wonderful things for His kingdom. It is my responsibility to make sure my joy is coming not from the wonderful things for God’s kingdom, but from the God who called me to those things. (So, when the wonderful things change to other wonderful things, the joy is still there... you see?!)

God is so gracious and faithful to me as I learn and relearn truths from His Word. 
I’m sure I’ll experience downhearted days every once in a while, but as I’m abiding in Jesus, there should be many, many joy-filled days for every downhearted one. 
Thank God for His provision for us:
You make known to me the path of life;
    in your presence there is fullness of joy;
    at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

Abiding in His presence,

Friday, June 7, 2013

All Over the Place

Today, I was out running errands for only an hour and it was astounding to me how many expressions of blatant selfishness I saw- even more than normal, whether by drivers on the road or customers in stores. But not only that, watching the rude reactionary responses of those they came in contact with was absolutely disheartening.
It caused me to do my own personal heart-check, to look at my actions. Are they self-serving or selfless? How are my responses to others selfish actions? Do I respond in love and patience, or react with ugly thoughts and actions?

Honestly, at one point I found myself thinking ill of a complete stranger whose words to me had been uncalled for and rude. I immediately was convicted of how my attitude reflected not a heart set on God, but a heart bent on self.
I asked God for forgiveness and became more intentional about living love and hopefully being light to the people around me for the rest of my trip.

It really felt like I was weaving in and out of scenes from a movie as I watched broken people interact with other broken people in a very broken way over and over again.

It brought to my mind the verses I have been studying with our World Changers team:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,  so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,  and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.              Philippians 2:1-11

That’s the beautiful way life is supposed to be lived- in harmony with one another, considering others more significant than ourselves, looking out for others’ interests above our own to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ our Lord and God our Father.

I was so profoundly convicted by how easy it is for me to slip into the ever-popular attitude of our culture: entitled,  “me” focused, looking out for number “1”. Our Enemy tries to feed us the lie, “If I don’t look out for myself, no one will.”
But God teaches us very differently. His way says, “As part of loving and serving Me, everyone should look out for everyone else. Then, everyone will be taken care of.”

If I am looking out for you, and you’re looking out for me, we’re both being looked out for. That’s the mended way God has graciously given us to live in this broken world.

I feel I’m rambling a bit, but just hang with me for a few more seconds…
Something developed in the minutes between my errand running and my writing this post. A very dear friend and brother in Christ passed away. My heart is full of aches to know that I will not see him anymore on this side of eternity, but after all I’ve seen out in the world today, I’m rejoicing in the fact that He is free from this brokenness and I’m also rejoicing in the legacy he leaves behind.
I can hardly think of another person who more beautifully looks out for the interests of others than he did. Whether it was offering encouragement just because, leading others to know Christ in a deeper way, or serving in whatever capacity was needed, he continually put Jesus first and put others above his own self. I miss him excruciatingly and I cherish his memory.

I am inspired, in light of my errand running, the Word of Truth that the Holy Spirit brought to my remembrance, and my dear friend’s passing to strive all the harder to keep my eyes focused on God and keep my actions selfless toward others so that my legacy might one day be a beautiful example of the Holy Spirit’s work in the life of this broken human being.

God showed up all over the place in my life today.
And I just thought I’d share.