Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Resolving a Global Problem

From David and Kathy Simpson comes this very contemporary message of concern from Bulgaria:

“Don’t worry.  Children adjust to these things.”  A church leader whispered these words to me after my prayer request for a suffering family.  A 42 year old woman recently died, leaving three children, who now live with their grand-parents and great-grandmother in a two-bedroom apartment.  The logistics are trying; the grief is agonizing.  But five weeks after the loss, this person apparently thought the time for mourning had passed.

“An otherwise physically fit 43 year old man explained to the church that his blood pressure was dangerously high and his physician hadn’t been able to find a medicine which was effective for him.  Obviously distressed, he asked for prayer.  Instead of truly acknowledging the concern, a leader publicly replied, “Almost everybody has blood pressure problems.” 
If these were isolated incidents, it wouldn’t be so disturbing.  But over and over we see church members minimize the anguish of others.  It is difficult for us to understand the responses, and painful to see individuals rebuffed.  Someone recently reminded us, “It’s easy for Americans to be open.  But our ancestors were slaves to the Ottomans for 500 years, and we were oppressed by the Soviets for 45 more years.  We had to learn to hide our emotions.”

“We realize that, in general, Bulgarians do not easily show their feelings.  We’ve also learned that many Christians here view the expression of intense sorrow as a lack of faith.  We have repeatedly asked ourselves, “Are we trying to force our own cultural expectations on others, or is the heartfelt display of concern and support an essential component of Christian living?”  We have seen the seeming lack of empathy inflict pain and damage relationships in our fellowship. We are convinced that compassion must transcend culture; it is the way of Christ.

“We can’t count the number of times we have addressed this issue in sermons, Bible studies, leadership meetings and individual conversations.  Please lift up the grieving family and the man with the blood pressure problem, and also pray for us to persevere with “…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Colossians 3:12 (NASB) 

“Perhaps the folks our age and older cannot learn a new way, but we cannot give up.  We will continue to encourage the established members, while focusing our efforts on discipling younger believers. We want to challenge them to live lives which are consistent with the character of Christ.  Among other things, they need to understand that David wept, Jeremiah wept, and Jesus himself wept.  We too must sometimes weep, both for ourselves and for others.  We hope one day to see an authentic Christian community – a fellowship of Bulgarian believers who will, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 (NASB)”

Not only is this a problem in Bulgaria; it is a problem in America and I experience it when I attend my local small group meeting. It is in fact a problem which I too find difficult to cope with. While some find it easier to share emotionally than others, the problem remains universal. So, is there a solution?

If the teachings of Jesus the Christ teach nothing else, the Bible and especially the New Testament affirm one central teaching that all believers can biblical affirm: love God supremely; and, love your neighbor as yourself. In practicing this core teaching of Jesus, Paul instructs us to “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2 NKJV).

I wonder … What would happen if we applied this practice to Beltway politics and the healthcare debate? ... What would happen if we applied this to the UN resolution regarding the crisis in Syria? ... What might happen if we began applying this principle to our foreign diplomacy? ... What might take place if we began practicing this reconciling principle to American church life? ...  How might you and I make a difference walking in each other’s shoes today?

From Warner’s World, this is walkingwithwarner, 

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