Compassionate Living

Several current issues and events are colliding in my brain this morning, so please forgive me as I use this blog to invite you into the scattered energy of my brain. Enter at your own risk!

It’s not really that bad, but the dramatic side of me sometimes needs an outlet. Basically I just have several things on my mind and I think in some ways they connect. Let’s see if I can explain.

First on my mind is the Chick-fil-A (CFA) brouhaha. If you don’t know, the president of CFA, Dan Cathy, said in an interview that he believed marriage should be as stated by Jesus in the gospel, that in the beginning human beings were created male and female and when they marry they become one flesh (Matthew 19:4-6). Now, this is not necessarily the end-all-be-all to the debate, but it is biblical. On the other side are those who have great love for their LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender) friends and family and are appalled at CFA for holding such an opinion. Many of these are Christians who want to be open to the many ways God creates us and operate out of the biblical mandate to offer the love and acceptance of Christ to all. The result has been a family feud among Christians to see who can make the other feel worse about their stance and their rhetoric.

Now comes part one of the odd mixture part of my thinking. Coupled with this CFA uproar and counter-uproar is my thinking about our church’s upcoming Missions Dinner (August 12th at 6pm).  The theme of the night is “Serving with Compassion“. It will be a night to tell stories of how God was at work in us and through us allowing us to serve others in many ways. I love the word COMPASSION to describe how we serve at Asbury. It is one of our most deeply held values and the word aptly points to the heartache we have for those who are in need.

Part three in my brain’s molecular train wreck is our upcoming building campaign. We are getting underway with our campaign to raise the funds to expand our meeting space. It’s not very “sexy” work and the campaign will be challenging in regard to helping people catch the vision. The additional space will allow us to do more in regard to making a place for people to come and get connected to other followers of Jesus and to grow spiritually in greater ways. It will make room for us to engage new people in ways we just cannot right now based on the space we have.

I think about Kim who came and visited our church yesterday. She is young and single and living in nearby apartments. Right now there is no group that meets that would have a natural affinity for her. That makes me think about other young adults who are either newly married or not married yet but who are also out of college and living nearby – we do have TWO new apartment complexes within 1.5 miles of the church! Wouldn’t it be great if we could start a group and reach out to some of these people?

I even think about young families we have in the area who are visiting the church. We do have some groups that might fit them. However, having been that young couple in a new church, I remember how tough it was to enter into an established group with established relationships. People don’t mean to exclude you, and maybe they don’t, but you still feel like an outsider. New groups forming would give new families a chance to develop new connections and to find a place to grow spiritually. After all, every class we have now once benefited from being a new group for new people.

Okay, so let’s see if I can bring this together. In my head, as I think about each of these things the same word keeps coming to mind. It’s the word I mentioned earlier, the word that is a core value at Asbury UMC. That word is COMPASSION.

Whether we are trying to decide how we want to respond to Chic-Fil-A, or seeking to find a way to serve others, or even deciding to put our funds into this new building program, the main issue is this – how do I act with compassion?

You see, compassion means I have to consider others more than myself. Compassion means I have to not just cling to my stance on same-sex marriage, but I have to consider how I do that and how it feels to others around me. When my heart goes out to others – whether I agree with them or not – it impacts how I interact with them. Compassion means finding ways to serve that don’t simply fit into my already busy schedule. When my heart goes out to others and I realize that I have so much to give and others have so much they need, I begin to rearrange my priorities and my calendar so I can give more of myself and my resources. Compassion means that I look beyond the dollar signs of a building campaign and I look beyond my own agenda for the church and I offer myself and my resources so that others can know the life in Christ that I know. It means we offer ourselves in leadership and we offer our financial gifts to make it happen. When our heart goes out to those in our neighborhood who need a place to grow spiritually, when we act out of compassion for others, we say “we may not need this for us, but we’ll do it for you.”

So, there’s where I am today. I am looking at the values of the followers of Jesus known as Asbury UMC and I see compassion staring me in the face. Then I look at what’s going on in our world and in our church and I see compassion as this common denominator of our call to live as followers of Jesus Christ. I see the potential of all the celebration we can enjoy and the people we can love when we live out the ideal of a compassionate life.

I guess that’s it. I will leave you with that word for you to ponder. How can you live a more compassionate life? Who around you needs to know they are loved in such a way that someone is willing to put aside their agenda, their schedule, and their self-focused attitude?

Let’s make COMPASSION a priority. I think it will change us as God uses us to change the lives of others.

Holy high-five to you,
Mike

Advertisements

3 responses to “Compassionate Living

  1. Regarding the Chick Fil A thing, I have no problem with him expressing his opinion etc…I had a problem with him donating thousands of dollars to anti gay/lesbian groups…they groups sow hate, not compassion….and is definetly not biblical based…

    • I never even indicated that he showed compassion. I simply pointed out the stance as understood biblically. The point is not to judge the compassionate living of others but to look at our own. That falls under the “do not judge others” biblical message. A person can disagree, boycott a store and even say why without declaring the other person hateful (i.e., not judging the heart which only God knows). It takes compassion, even for those with whom we disagree. Which way will WE choose? That is the point.

  2. I read this post a couple of days ago, and the above response has bothered me since and so I sit down to try to put a “different twist” on the homosexuality debate and some of my journey on trying to come to grips with this issue within the context of Christianity.

    Not all people who view the relationship as a sin come from a position of “hate”. After battling some of my own “gut reactions” in dragging this issue into the light of day, my guess is some that sound like they do are actually reacting to fear.
    I am a rank and file church member who feels like I have been caught in the middle of the homosexuality issue. I do not condone “gay bashing”–verbally or otherwise. I would never deny someone aid simply because they are gay. And yes, my interaction with the openly gay community is extremely limited–although I have my suspicions, including those about a very much beloved former associate pastor. I am intrigued with interacting with the gay man who works at the drive through of the Arby’s I patronize–he is very good at his job–one of the best I have ever encountered and he makes me smile. On the flip side, my family has recently had an encounter with another gay man that left a very negative mark and felt like “a walk on the dark side”–the inappropriate ways in which he expressed his homosexuality was only the beginning of “what was wrong”–his homosexuality is at the top of the list because that is what he put at the top of the list as his identity. I handled it with prayer.

    After much prayerful research which has spanned the better part of a year, I find no reason to shift my understanding of God’s view of the homosexual relationship: It is a sin; not The Sin; but a sin. I would support organizations that put that word out in an appropriate Christ-like manner. From everything I have ever heard of about the Cathy Family and Chick-fil-a my assumption would be they would do the same; especially since Mr. Cathy was so understated in his acknowledgment of his stance. There is absolutely no evidence that they wish people within the gay community any harm in any way or would deny them service at one of their stores.

    During my “quest” I came across this analogy that describes people’s beliefs and understandings: Think of your understandings and beliefs as a stalagmite–they are an accumulation of thoughts and ideas that have been collected over a life time. The ones at the top are those most easily changed. Those ingrained at a young age are at the base and are very hard to access, much less think about changing without upsetting the whole stalagmite. The view that homosexuality is a sin is a 2000 year old concept that was passed on to me at a very early age. It is very much at the base of my 59 year old stalagmite.

    One thing I came across “sealed the deal” for me in my quest for understanding in the homosexuality debate was reading “Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity” by S. Michael Craven. His description of participating in a homosexuality debate at UC-Berkley is stunning and eye-opening. He was called to go at it with love and humility and because he reponded to that call, he was provided an opportunity to encounter the pro gay community face to face after the debate during which he never once changed his stance: “I spent the next hour and a half with this entire group of young people..in the most productive and respectful dialogue I have ever expereinced. These students had serious questions..It was as if they wanted to ask questions about Christianity but had never met a Christian, or at least one they were inclined to speak with.” Craven’s view on the homosexuality issue is loving and reasonable That is the type voice that needs to be elevated in this debate. Unfortunately only the extremes seem to get any notice, which leaves someone like me caught in the middle with nowhere to go because I can not fathom being linked with either “voice”–they are both intolerant and are both doing great damage to the Church in America which distresses me greatly. The above quote exposes a much larger and troubling issue: “It was as if they wanted to ask questions about Christianity but had never met a Christian, or at least one they were inclined to speak with.”

    One other thing I have learned is that the Wesleyan Church–a 40+ year old denomination–is on the rise world wide despite openly taking the stance that homosexuality is a sin–once again, not The Sin, but a sin. Their General Superintendent is a woman, black churches have joined ranks with them and the call is for each local church to start reflecting the ethnic diversity of their community so I see no evidence of bigotry. The primary focus of their General Conference, held a month after the UMC’s, was about getting the Gospel out. Their stance on homosexuality was never once challenged. The General Superintendent recently released a list of seven items to be addressed over the next 4 years; at the top of the list is a call for all leadership withinn the church to “live authentic lives”. After being a life long Methodist, tired of the cantankerous debate on homosexuality, some days I view the Wesleyan Church as a reasonable port in the storm.

    I close with a quote from Oswald Chambers in which he talks about how God loves us and how that impacts how we interact with others: “Unless my relationship to God is right, my sympathy for men will lead me astray and them also; but when once I am right with God, I can love my neighbor as God has loved me. How has God loved me? God has loved me to the end of my sinfulness, the end of all my self-will, all my selfishness, all my stiff-neckedness, all my pride, all my self-interest; now He says I am to show to my fellow-men the same love”. In applying this to the homosexualtiy debate the key pharase for me is “my sympathy for men will lead me astray and them also…” God wants us to live in conjuction with him beyond our humaness and shortcomings. So how do we know that Christianity endorsing the homosexual relationship is what is best for the people of the gay community?

    Thank you for letting me share my views: they come strictly from a desire to live a life pleasing to God and a wish for others to have the same.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s