Recently we spent a week away to get a break from the stress and struggles of work/life. We had no wifi while on vacation, and perhaps that was a good thing. What I was able to see on my newsfeed – at random moments and locations during the week – made me sad and frustrated.
So much dissension. So much division. So much immaturity and selfishness.
With all of the controversy surrounding flags and gay marriage this past week It seems that, if someone disagrees with another person’s opinion/choices/convictions, then they are “hateful”, “stupid”, “prejudiced”, and to be immediately unfriended. Really?
As has been so prevalent of late, it seems that if one person flies a flag according to the heritage they’ve learned – and another sees it as a hurtful reminder of things or a symbol of division – then those two individuals cannot ever abide in the same “space” as friends, family, or comrades. The ONLY possible explanation is that one or the other is filled with hatred, bigotry, and evil.
Or if one agrees with the Supreme Court decision – and another does not – then those two individuals also cannot possibly occupy the same “space”, the same family, or the same circle of friends. One or the other of them MUST have a heart filled with spite, ugliness, and (again) hatred.
So let me make sure I’ve got this right. You cannot rightly hold a differing opinion from another person in your life. It can’t be rationally discussed. The differences can’t be reasonably heard. No agreement, compromise, or even agreement-to-disagree can be reached. Having different opinions causes such a breach in the relationship that it cannot be overcome – and the relationship is set aside because someone doesn’t think, act, believe, speak, just like you do. Is that how it is?
What a very boring, predictable, immature, and narrow-minded life that thought process dictates.
To surround oneself with only those who are a mirror image is to design a life void of creativity, challenge, and critical thinking. To only be around those who think and act as we do is to stifle any chance for growth or increasing in maturity. To demand that those you know be no different… hold no different opinion/conviction… and to characterize them with unkind and hateful labels, if they dare to think differently, is arrogant and prideful.
When you have walked every step that someone else has walked, and you have heard – and really listened to – the experiences, learnings, and cultural biases that have brought them their convictions and opinions, then, and only then, can you begin to understand whether someone’s heart is truly evil and knowingly full of hatred. I can guarantee that, the majority of the time, that is not the case.
However it’s much easier to spew venom towards someone who disagrees with us than it is to have REAL, HONEST give-and-take conversation in order to learn from one another.
Last time I checked it was entirely possible to disagree with someone’s lifestyle, choices, or thoughts and still love that person and/or treat them with respect and dignity as a God-created human being. If you find that isn’t possible, no matter which side of an issue you stand upon, perhaps a SELF-examination is needed.
Time to grow up.
There used to be a show on television called To Tell The Truth. Contestants would hear the stories of 3 people, all using the same name, and would have to guess which of the 3 was “the real thing”. The host, Bob Collyer, would then say “Would the real ……. please stand up!?” And the suspense would build as each would pretend to stand until, finally, the REAL character would stand to the delight of whichever contestant – and television viewers – had guessed correctly. Seems things may not have changed so much these days.
I often read and hear comments about how people are not “real” on Facebook. There are frequent conversations about how social media sites are used as finely fabricated facades where life, with all of it’s reality and ugliness, can be hidden behind sweet sentiments, splendidly sublime statuses, and skillfully spoken scriptures. The REAL character never even has to appear. It’s always a guessing game for the reader or follower, wondering what’s true and what’s not.
Social media may, indeed, present the perfect opportunity to “fake it ’til you make it”. It’s the ideal place to post only words that will present the exact image you’ve always wanted. Paint the picture of a peaceful and loving, calm, spiritual life where the wind doesn’t blow, you’re never caught in a storm, and your relationships are love-story worthy. Roadblocks? What the heck are those? They don’t exist in the smooth journey that is your social media universe on display. After all, only those who are closest to you will know if you’re presenting a glossier picture than reality. Though they may call you out, it’s typically not in a public forum like Facebook. And if it is, you have the power to hide it from your timeline, delete their comments, or – if it’s really critical to save face – unfriend or block them. Social media can, indeed, be the superb symposium to be who you’ve always dreamed of being through substantial and stylishly stated scripts.
But why on earth is that even a thing?
In my not so humble opinion, that is just too much work. Putting on airs. Hiding behind fake personas. Pretending to be always loving. Always cheery. Always mature. Always spiritual. With the perfect family… husband… job… budget… life… church… In other words, lying. Publicly. Spreading a bald-faced, straight-up, contrived-behind-the-computer lie by presenting only the “good” parts of life.
That’s called a half-truth. Aka: A lie.
So let’s get real. Or rather, let ME get real for a few minutes and words. (Because sometimes the best example we can use is ourselves.)
Yes, I post scriptures on my timeline. I post kudos and prayers, good thoughts and feel good stories, inspirational quotes and funny anecdotes about my Shmexy and my kids. I post it all. And I have a strong conviction about everything that is posted under my name. I enjoy being able to connect with people this way, and giving them a little window into life with the “Ferrell fam”, or trying to inspire, teach, and lead through examples and statuses.
Does that mean that I have a cute little cookie-cutter life of bubble gum, smiley faces, and never-wavering faith? Or a life that is always filled with roses and sweet-sounding words? Psssshh. Hardly.
I’m still a flesh and blood woman who doesn’t like her many curves, forgets to brush her teeth, and wears her bras until the underwire breaks and cuts into her flesh – just to avoid spending the ridiculous amount of money required to replace them. I’ve been known to wear unflattering spandex, mismatched socks, and torn underwear… but not at the same time. (I know. My husband always tells me how very sexy that is.)
I’ve also been known to smell a pair of jeans or shirt to see if it’s wearable, because who has time to do laundry every single day? I’ve burned dinner, exploded soda cans in the freezer (just yesterday), fed the dogs cat food and the cats dog food, forgotten to clean the litter box (until a sudden “gift” in the floor somewhere reminded me), and piled up load after load of clean clothes on the pool table because I didn’t want to fold them.
There are hairballs in the corner of each step of my house because my cats are fur mongers. I walk past them and look at them disturbed, but not enough to do anything about it right at the moment. And my bathroom sink – that I fixed myself [insert applause here] can still be knocked off the cabinet because I’ve never silicone’d it down firmly.
I still pass unfair judgments on people, get road rage now and then, and eat fast food when I’m too lazy to cook – and regret it within minutes. I, quite often, talk/groan/snore/make noises when I sleep. I get angry at little things, ignore big things, and will graciously avoid conflict until it’s absolutely positively necessary… unless, of course, we’re close family. Then it’s on like Donkey Kong if I get mad at you.
I also question God, get disheartened, worry about my children, and sometimes feel quite bitter with just how God does things. I don’t always forgive well. I tend to be more affected by words than I should on occasion, and I spend too much time doing things that don’t really matter – like playing A-words or Text Twist on the computer. I’ve struggled with porn addiction in my past, am still insecure about my looks, and really have to “take a chill pill” when I am suddenly interrupted while focused – because I can be so very task-oriented.
And I’m not afraid to tell any of those things. Here, in person, or on social media. What would be the purpose of hiding them?
Romans 8:1-2 says: “Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.” (Message)
Another version says: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (NIV)
Relationship with Christ + Reprieval from Condemnation/Retribution = Release to be REAL
And Romans 8:33-38 says “The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture….I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (Message)
I. Love. This.
It says “Do you think anything is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us?… Absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love….”
If the One Who created us and gave His life for us isn’t threatened by our angry outbursts or arrogant times, doesn’t hate us for what we struggle with, and can never be so disgusted with what we’ve done that He stops loving us, then why hide who we really are? Why hunker down behind an invisible wall, that is social media, and pretend to be something we’re not? Who are we afraid will discover the “reality of me”?
The God of the Universe already knows us. Really KNOWS us. And He won’t stop loving us. So why sweat the girl down the street who may struggle with some of the same things you do… or maybe even bigger-seeming things?
Keep posting the good things in your life! After all, scripture says to think on -meditate on – good things. (Philippians 4:8)
Don’t stop posting verses, quotes, or sayings that inspire you, minister to you, or speak loudly to your soul. Keep encouraging yourself and others with strong words of truth. Continue with the adorable photos of your kittens and kids. Just season it with “real-ness”!
Give others virtual entrance into the messy, dust-covered, rooms of your house – and heart – now and then. Authenticity is much less difficult than carrying around that shield of “superior-looking stuff” (I so wanted to use a different word there!) to make yourself look plastic-Barbie perfect. He knows the real you. Don’t you think it’s about time you allow others to?
Will the real “Me” please stand up?
God can’t – won’t – doesn’t make me sick. He cannot do so.
I’ve known good people who got sick. I’ve known not-so-good people who got sick. And I’ve known Godly people who got sick unto death.
I’ve also heard, at times, someone say “God made me sick”, God caused this for His purposes”, or “God must’ve needed another angel” when someone has died.
If I said “I hate to disagree” I would be dishonest. I don’t hate to disagree. I, very adamantly, disagree with the notion that God makes us sick or needs us in Heaven and so He causes us to suffer with agonizing symptoms and to waste away miserably and painfully with our families/friends aching as we die. That is the opposite of the heart of Christ. And Jesus – very boldly – said “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen My Father”.
When Jesus walked the earth, He. Healed.
“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” – Matthew 4:23
“…who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” – Luke 6:18-19
“but the crowds… followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.” – Luke 9:11
There are no instances where Christ made someone sick, or caused someone to be sick. None.
There are no instances where Christ caused someone’s death because God “needed them”. Matter of fact, Lazarus died and Jesus raised him up. Four. Days. Later.
AND, Elijah and Enoch simply went to be with the God of the Heavens. They weren’t stricken with a disease and painfully suffer until they died. They “went to be” with God. Moses, Methusaleh, Adam, Joseph, the list goes on of those who knew God and simply lived until they died. They lived their years of promise and their bodies “resigned” so that they could be with the God Who made them.
Nope. God doesn’t make me sick. He can’t. It would require that He go against His own character, which would make Him dishonest. And God is not able to lie. He is not capable of darkness. There is no sickness or death in Him.
Then where does sickness originate?
As Christ-followers…. actually, as human beings created in the image of God, we have an enemy. From the time that Adam and Eve were created to this day, the “enemy of our Spirit” – in other words Satan (yes, he does exist) – has sought to prevent us from drawing close to God, from trusting God, from understanding His fierce love, and from receiving His undeserved yet freely given grace. He has fought, rather warred, against mankind in an effort to keep us from what he no longer has – a relationship with and direct access to God.
And when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they opened the way for sin, disobedience, disease, and death to enter into the life of every man who would follow. Sin. Darkness. Death. They all entered this, now fallen, world and were followed by natural consequences and all things “bad”.
Why did God allow it? Why were these things given entrance into the world? Because man chose. Man chose to disobey and, therefore, to allow the spirit that was contrary to God’s to come into the world.
Why does God allow good, Godly, people to suffer with sickness? I don’t know why some are supernaturally healed and others remain ill. I don’t know why some are miraculously preserved from death and others join God too early. I don’t know. And neither does anyone else.
There are some things we don’t understand. But what we should understand is (again) where Christ said “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen My Father”. We should understand how the disciples continued to affect the world like Christ and they healed others in His name. They didn’t cause others to be sick. They didn’t wish sickness on anyone. They DID admonish, at times after healing someone, to go and change the habits/patterns of life or suffer consequences worse than the original sickness. However, the disciples never prayed for someone to get sick or gave them a sickness. They followed Christ’s example and healed… cured… those who were diseased.
If you believe that God caused you to be sick, or made you sick, then why ask others to pray for you to be healed? Wouldn’t that be asking God to go against Himself? Seems like a waste. Or a contradiction.
“Every GOOD and PERFECT gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” – James 1:17
“…Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.…” – James 5:14-16
Ever read a scripture passage that reached into your soul a grabbed hold with an iron grip as if to say “Pay attention to me! I have something for you!”?
This past week I was reading and came across a passage like this. When the women had gone to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body, they encountered a man who told them “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’” – Mark 16:6-7
Go and tell His disciples…. and Peter. In my mind this implied that Peter was being mentioned separately from the disciples possibly due to his sin of denying Christ 3x.
However, every Commentary that I read indicated otherwise. They all agreed that Peter was not be distinguished from the disciples, but instead was Peter was being singled out to assure that he was informed along with the other disciples… to guarantee that he was included in this report of Christ’s resurrection and His promise that He would come to them again.
Peter’s name was called out to make certain that he knew he was included in the invitation to meet with Christ once again.
I can only imagine how his heart must have skipped when his name was called. Such a mixture of excitement, anticipation, fear, and guilt. He had, after all, sworn and uttered curses as he denied even knowing who Christ was in the midst of the God-man’s most physically/emotionally demanding… potentially damaging… days on Earth. He had abandoned Christ. Turned his back on the Christ that he had walked with, talked with, ate with, slept beside, been taught by, and even been called by. Peter had refused to acknowledge the One Who had – with all patience and understanding – seen the potential in Peter’s strong-will, brash personality, and impulsivity.
Peter had sworn he knew no such man called “Christ”. Three. Scandalous. Times.
And yet, Peter was being called out by the same, Christ, and acknowledged as His in the presence of all the other disciples… who, most assuredly, knew of his shameful denials.
Scripture later records that Christ appeared to the disciples when they were fishing and John recognized Who was on the shore. And rather than waiting for the rest of the disciples to row there in their boat – for that would take to long – Peter jumped from the boat and began to swim to shore (is it any wonder with his impulsive nature?). He wanted to be in the presence of Jesus.
Christ waited until all the disciples were together and had shared a meal. He then called Peter’s name again. He singled him out once again in the presence of the others. Imagine… “Peter?”
Was He going to rebuke Peter for his sinful, slap in the face, spurning? Would he point out how Peter had denied Him and then, publicly, announce that he was no longer chosen to represent Christ? After all, how could he?
How could Christ, in all good conscience, allow Peter to represent Him and His cause knowing that Peter had stood before many and, cursing and swearing, joined in His ridicule and refused to acknowledge his relationship with Him ? How could the hand of God continue to anoint Peter’s life with such a blatant rejection? So many thoughts and emotions must have been leaving footprints on Peter’s mind and heart.
“Peter” “Yes, Lord?”
“Do you love me?”
Three times Christ asked if Peter loved Him. Scripture says that Peter was hurt because Christ asked him the third time. Could it have been another painful reminder of Peter’s 3 rebuffs?
“Lord, You know all things. You know that I love You”
And Christ, for the 3rd time, reaffirmed Peter’s calling to “feed My lambs”… to minister to those who are lost and hurting… to those who have no Shepherd.
“Lord, You know all things”…..
Indeed He does.
Christ knows all things. He knows that we are human. He knows that we make mistakes. He knows that we even, at times, reject or spurn His place in our life with our actions and/or words. He knows.
And yet, just like Peter, He continues to call out our name. He continues to let us know that if our heart is still trying to find Him through the dense fog of shame that can cloud our view of Him… if we are still seeking His light in the midst of our own mental and emotional darkness… if we are willing to jump out of the boat and “swim” towards Him – not waiting for things to be just right or others to come along with us… if our response is that pain-filled, guilt-ridden, cry of “Lord, you know all things. You KNOW that I love you”… then, in spite of our sin, He calls out our name and reminds us that we remain called, appointed, chosen, His.
Such marvelous Grace.
I’ve got it and I’ve got it bad.
No, it’s not split personality disorder. Not a sad case of the blues. I’m not madly in love with someone other than my husband… well, except for myself sometimes.
I’ve got a messiah complex. A ridiculously inaccurate messiah complex.
It’s my responsibility to save things and fix people. Every. Single. Day.
The world can’t survive without me. At least that seems to be what I subconsciously tell myself at times.
My students and co-workers will be lost if I take a day off. Things at church might not go smoothly if I miss a Sunday… or a leaders meeting. If I say no to an invitation with family it might upset things. My input is important in most any situation. My opinion valid. My perspective pretty awesome and accurate. My way, quite often, the most reasonable and practical – the wisest way.
See? I have placed myself on an imaginary pedestal without even realizing it. I unconsciously believe that I am the all-knowing, troubleshooter of the totality of what is wrong in life. The ever-wise moderator of relationships and conflicting conversations. The oracle who sees the errors of ways. The prophet who speaks the hard-hearing truth.
I have set myself in a high place in my own mind. I have assumed the position of savior of the world. … again.
There have been several times, in my life, when I have climbed up to this high and lofty mental place of honor. Times when I wouldn’t – couldn’t – say no for fear of the world stopping if I did so. Times when I had to be ever-present for everyone or things would forever be marred and scarred (at least in my own mind).
And each time I have gotten soundly, profoundly, and squarely, knocked off that pedestal and painfully back onto my reality-recognizing butt.
My mind, my emotions, my body, or all three at once, take control and say “enough is enough” and they forcefully set me off my feet and onto my kiester, or my back. This is where I am forced to recognize that the world will continue to spin – tasks will still be completed – life will go on – friends, family, loved ones, students, and co-workers will survive… and possibly even thrive – all without my influence or interference.
Although I do not believe God is the author of sickness, fatigue, breakdowns, or anything that is evil, I do believe that He allows us to crash and burn at times as a natural consequence of our own ignorance or sin. And when I have fanned both ends of the candle flame for an endless amount of time, and there is no light left in me because I have been an improper steward of the gifts/talents that He HAS given me, then He allows me to become as a scorched and melted puddle of wax.
At that point I have a choice. Refuse to acknowledge that I am not the end-all, be-all, messiah without which the world cannot flourish – and thus grow cold and hard as His glow extinguishes and I continue to believe I, alone, can save. Or remain pliable, willing to be reshaped and reused by submitting to the heat of His character-molding, mind-renewing fire and the blaze of His Spirit. Allowing myself to be ignited with the His love-shaped, grace-filled Zippo – recognizing that without Him I am nothing. And even with Him, I am simply a broken vessel of light that He has chosen to carry His spark… not to pervert His standing as Messiah and Savior of the world.
Scripture admonishes that man not think more highly of himself than he ought. Proverbs advises that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.
Me, Myself, and my Messiah complex struggle with this at times and forget. Ever been there?
Time to really show up for life and choose to grow up
Man up. Woman up. Pull your big girl panties up.
Rise up. Stand up. Go-on and lift your hands up
And say “I’m in”. “Here I am.
Ready to really be a man… or woman who is getting rid
of things that I did as a kid.
Like gossiping, back-stabbing, in-your-face ugly jabbing
calling names, putting down, pushing others to the ground
by elevating, lifting, raising my me-centered self
higher and higher upon a shelf
of arrogance and ego, pride and ‘follow me’ so
you can feel
lesser than, lower than, just a little slower than
I believe I am ’cause I’m the great I am
in my own eyes
When really I am nothing more than insecure and small.”
Maturity puts these things away and recognizes that every day
is one great opportunity to build, lift, uphold, and raise
another God-crafted human being emotionally,
mentally, give them a sense of dignity
instead of expecting them to measure up to
my self-serving standards that really do
have absolutely, positively, nothing to do with their true worth
M is for seeing, treating, viewing, greeting others with maturity.
It is Not. About. “Me”.
We all do it now and then.
We all get frustrated with the dishonesty from those who believe they are of good character, yet they twist and turn scripture, words, and situations, to cover their behinds or advance their own selves. They do this all while standing proudly beating their chest and giving credit for their character, or lack thereof, to God. The reason? Raw, unchecked, furious emotion.
Jumping into a venture with both feet due to heightened emotions is unwise. It causes mistakes to be made, impulsive decisions to go bad, and dishonest excuses to be given in order to hide the fact that feelings were the source of these things instead of the Spirit of God.
Whether building a business, a ministry, or a relationship – if the foundation consists of a mix of emotion, dishonesty, and pride – it will, at some point, crumble and leave others damaged beneath the rubble. This doesn’t change simply because we are children of God. Actually, the cost – and repercussions – become greater when we bring Christ and His body into things.
The issue isn’t having emotions, God created us as emotional beings. The issue is when we look at a person or situation and our heart strings are pulled, so we take action – giving no consideration to how this action may affect others not directly related to the immediate face/circumstance before us. We move swiftly as if our intervention is the only thing that can possibly change things (which makes us greater than God in our self-serving eyes). Or we assume that, because our emotions are so heightened, there’s no way our decisions could be wrong – and those who don’t agree, or don’t follow our examples in word and deed – they are the ones that are wrong… they’re VERY wrong.
We step from the emotional ambulance or fire vehicle, onto a platform of ego and arrogance. And as we pile excuses, dishonesty, and pompous “words of wisdom and spirit” one upon the other, our prideful pedestal grows higher and higher.
Tall, self-glorifying props are difficult to step off. It requires the humility to admit that we’ve allowed things to become unstable due to our own emotional recklessness. It demands the willingness to admit wrong and stop using God as an excuse for why things aren’t as we said they would be. Stepping off needs help. Unemotional. Practical. Wise. Spirit-led. Help.
God the Father is ready to lead and teach us how to follow Him and not be dragged along by the leash of emotions. His Spirit waits for us to allow Him to take HIS place as The Rescuer, the “Need-Meeter”, the Wise Guide in our lives so that we can be effective servants and representatives of Him – in every area of our lives – instead of self-aggrandizing emotional callouses on the Body of Christ.
Step off the Emotions and Ego. Step into His Spirit and Leading. The greater glory comes from Him.
Perhaps it may be possible
to change the world
Rearrange the world
Accomplish absolute upheaval
exchangin Good for selfish evil
by extendin’ out a life-worn hand
to that grace-scattered
beaten, broken, bruised and shattered
cold-hearted shell of a man
In this age of me and mine
If it feels good do it ne’er mind
how it relates to thee and thine
Buy it, steal it
Take it, fake it
Lie your way out
just to make it
obvious that there’s not a care
‘cept for the only one that’s there
in the mirror
through glassy, empty, soul-less eyes
that’ll do most anything to grasp the prize
of recognition, affirmation,
man’s applause and commendation
sacrificing character for that
I am, quite often, asked what the Christ-like response should be when approached by someone asking for money. I’m asked because my profession by day involves working with homeless and/or financially unstable individuals. My response to these things tends to often disagree with the typical “social worker” view, settled into the heart by book knowledge and sometimes hardened by years of experience.
Let’s take the scenario where we encounter men/women standing at the busy intersections, with signs asking for money, waiting for vehicles to be forced to stop at the light or sign. There are typically 2 diametrically opposed responses for the driver seeing someone “begging for alms”. The first: <rolling up the window and looking straight ahead as if they won’t see> “Don’t give them any money. They’ll spend it on alcohol or drugs.” or “I don’t have any money. This feels awkward.” The second: <rolling down the window. clink. clink.> “Have a nice day.” <driving on, feeling accomplished/rewarded>.
Neither is a wrong… or right… response. Neither can be fairly judged by someone else as proper or improper. The reason for this is that one cannot judge the motive of the heart except the driver themselves.
However, let’s look at how the apostles responded in a parallel situation.
Acts 3:1-10 Now Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. 2 And a certain man that was lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; 3 who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked to receive an alms. 4 And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him, with John, said, Look on us. 5 And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something from them. 6 But Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but what I have, that give I thee. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. 7 And he took him by the right hand, and raised him up: and immediately his feet and his ankle-bones received strength. 8 And leaping up, he stood, and began to walk; and he entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God: 10 and they took knowledge of him, that it was he that sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.
When the apostles were going into the temple they were confronted by a man who, daily, sat outside the gates and begged for money. Peter looked at the man and John told the man to look up – to look at them… to make eye contact with them. Requiring eye contact, or making eye contact with someone in this type of situation, is to show them respect. To give them dignity. So the apostles’ first response was to treat the man with respect and dignify his worth as one created by God, their Father.
Scripture says that the man looked back at them expecting for them to give him money. But Peter said “I don’t have any silver or gold. However, what I do have I will give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, walk”. And the man’s legs were healed and he ran, jumping and leaping, with the disciples into the temple – all while thanking and praising God.
When Peter looked at the man scripture says that he “fastened his eyes upon the man”. Peter looked intently at the man and his eyes gripped the man. Peter didn’t see a man who needed money although that was what the man had spent most of his life begging for. For years the man had begged for something that he could see, touch, feel. Something that he could believe in…alms. Something that he could use, temporarily, to meet an immediate need. This is what had assisted the man with his survival for years. Begging for and receiving money from people who felt sorry for him and took pity on him.
But Peter was looking beyond the beggar. He looked beyond the request for money. He saw past the band-aid that would temporarily cover a gaping wound in the man’s life. Peter saw the true wound. The true need. The root cause of the man’s true poverty. Peter saw a disabled man with a wounded soul. And THIS is what Peter responded to. Out of felt compassion for the man, Peter and John looked deeply at the man and recognized that giving him money would not, ultimately, help the man. He’d been receiving money for years – yet was still crippled, was still begging, was still broken. And so Peter offered him, instead, hope and healing.
Back to our response. I can’t tell anyone how to respond to someone who they see asking for money. One’s response to these situations is, entirely, between them and their God. However, based on the apostles’ response, I can offer these words…
Outside of all else our heart should be moved with compassion for the one who is beaten down and broken in such a way that they must rely on others, or “the system”, to meet their temporal needs. The Spirit of God on the inside of us should be pained when one of God’s masterpieces finds themselves in a situation where “begging for alms” is how they have come to survive. Our first response should be compassion. Our motivation, whatever our response, MUST be compassion when we see one who is broken and “poor” in spirit. (Luke 10:29-37)
Then, our response must be coupled with wisdom and discernment from the Father. Like the man at the Gate Beautiful, quite often the true need has nothing to do with giving alms or money. We may be approached by one who may, indeed, have an immediate need for sustenance of some kind. If we have the ability to meet this need – whether we offer alms or not – that is between ourselves and God alone. However, the question begs to be asked. Will giving money satisfy our own immediate need for justification and self-satisfaction? Will giving money ultimately help? Or will it add to the band-aids that have been applied by so many before us, to poorly cover a much deeper wound?
If we, as Christ-followers, simply apply band-aids by giving money to everyone who appears to need it, are we following the example of Christ and His apostles? Jesus, Himself, encountered people with immediate, “felt” needs constantly. He met their needs, however then He shared hope with them… and CHALLENGED them to live life, to do life, differently. (Note: there are no accounts of Jesus giving money to meet an immediate need, but instead healing of all disease, delivering from oppression, etc.) Even when Christ fed the 3,000 and the 5,000 it was to provide sustenance in order that they could continue to receive His teachings after a long day.
In the story of Peter and John, they reached beyond money and alms into the real, soul and spirit needs of the man. They offered more than a gift of money, but a gift of healing, restoration, and hope. Not only could the man walk after receiving the true gift that Peter and John offered, but he ran, danced, rejoiced, and celebrated. From a beaten and broken man with wounded pride, unable to lift his eyes to a smiling, leaping, whooping and hollering individual who infected other people with his joy. All because Peter and John saw beyond the immediate, temporal, perceived need and responded with respect and dignity, true compassion, and wisdom.
For the person who has adjusted to living life relying on the generous – or guilt-ridden – gifts of others, money may seem to be what will solve their problems. Money, or alms, may seem to be what they need most. It may seem to be what will satisfy their “felt need”. However, if we fasten our eyes upon them, and our heart is moved with compassion and wisdom from our Father, then we will recognize that this is a superficial fix to a deeper need. Our giving will not just be about handing out a few dollars. We will go beyond money and we will remove the band-aids to address the oozing, gaping wound that is the root cause of their poverty. We will offer them dignity. We will restore their pride. We will offer the hope that is in us, addressing the deeper need, and a extend a hand with a challenge to do differently and “rise up and walk”… willing to walk beside them when the challenge is accepted.