We had a wonderful time of prayer this last Sunday at Lamar, where more than 100 prayer requests came in via text, that we prayed for out loud. It was such a meaningful time! However, we didn’t have time for our normal Q&A.
That’s why I’m putting here are the questions I received, and my brief answers. For those of you not part of Lamar, these questions came in context of my sermon. I’ve included it linked below! Otherwise, they may seem a bit out of left field :).
Jesus is the Judge. But aren’t we also to hold one another accountable? Absolutely. I would encourage you to read Matthew 18:15-17. Jesus spoke about how we are to help each other grow by correcting each other. Paul even says in 1 Corinthians 5 that we’re to judge those inside the church. We are to make judgments, we are to examine each other and help each other see sin that maybe we don’t see. We are to correct (even rebuke each other) in love and always with gentleness, according to Galatians 6:1. So how does that fit here? Simple: we’re not judging based on our own standards, or the world’s standards. We’re judging based on God’s standards! We’re helping each other live in freedom and in obedience to God! In James 2, we’re judging, showing partiality, based on things that the world considers significant, not God! That’s why his warning is so relevant.
Why are so many Christians against things like universal healthcare and a higher minimum wage if James clearly tells us to care about the poor just as much as anyone else? First, not all Christians are against these things. A good number are for them. But to answer your question, it’s not as cut-and-dry as one side caring about the poor and the other not. That’s probably true for some. But most of the disagreement is about the role the government should play in caring for the poor. That’s where we can have disagreement, and it be ok. There’s no biblical or theological requirement for all agreeing on the exact role the government should take in these matters. However, the one thing we can’t disagree on, because it’s black and white here—is the role you and I, the church, have in caring about and loving all people. This is a command for you and me. It’s not a command for other people; it’s not a command for the government. You and I are called by God to love and care for all people—no matter their worldly position.
What do we do when a leader spews hatred, racism, incites violence, hates minorities, curses, lies all the time, and wants to be worshipped? Wow, what a list! This might depend on the leadership position they hold. If they’re a pastor, they need to be rebuked (through the biblical process, i.e. Matthew 18:15-17), and possibly removed from their position. If they’re a civil or political leader: I’d answer first with the desperate need to pray for them. Unfortunately, there are likely more than a few leaders who would fit these characteristics. Pray for repentance, no doubt. If their political viewpoints and stances do not reflect what adds to the flourishing of all people, then make your voice heard! If you’re one of their constituents, especially, vote and make your voice heard.
Do these love thy neighbor verses apply to completely unlovable, evil people? How should love for horrible people look? I’ll be honest, especially since these questions are anonymous. I cannot determine tone with text, so I could be wrong, but this question sounds like it has a bit of a self-righteous tone. We must remember, first, that except for the grace of God, you and me and ALL of us are “completely unlovable, evil people.” In God’s eyes, you and I and ALL of us are depraved wretches (Romans 3:10-12). So, to answer your question: I’d say you love them just like you would love anyone else. By remembering that no one is beyond the point of redemption, and that all people are made in God’s image and to be treated with dignity.
How do you respond to people who stand on the corner begging for money? I fear they will use the money for drugs or alcohol. This is not an uncommon concern. I, too, have feared the misuse of money I may people begging or asking for it. One idea I’ve had, especially if I’m on my way to the store, is to offer to take them with me and get them a few things. Or for that matter, asking if there’s something I can buy them while I’m at the store, and bring it back. We want to be smart, safe, and actually help people. We certainly don’t want to ignore them, even though we may not be able to help every person we see on the side of the road.
Do we sometimes show partiality by going out of our way to NOT show partiality? Do we end up showing partiality for what WE decide is the right reason? Things and issues we value…that might draw attention to our efforts. I think I know what you’re asking. If you’re asking about our motivation for treating all with love and respect, I’d say absolutely. We can have the wrong motivations for treating all people as equals, perhaps to be SEEN as someone who treats all with love and respect. If this be the case, we should repent! However, we need also be careful not to paralyze ourselves with a fear of having the wrong motivation. In other words, I think it’d be better to love the people around us and check our motivations after the fact than not to love to the people around us simply because we’re afraid of having the wrong motivations. I hope that makes sense!