Tag Archives: concern

They’re watching you!

“You probably don’t remember me—I was one of the “roadies”—the “stoned canyon road” bunch —-referring  to a group who hung out on a road south of the high school to smoke cigarettes, and I suspect other things. 

Shortly before I retired from teaching I received an unexpected letter from a  woman who had been a student  in my southern California high school U.S. History class over 20 years earlier.      She wrote that she wanted me to know that she had married, raised a family, and then had gone back to college and was completing her degree to become a teacher.   And she wrote to  tell me that I was the teacher who had influenced her to go into teaching as a profession because she had never forgotten what I did and how I helped her and she wanted to do the same for others!   

We often never know who are actions and words have influenced for good or for evil.   In her case I am grateful for her letting me know but at a loss as to what I said or did that influenced her.

Human beings are imitators.   Despite all of our insistence on our uniqueness and individualism at the present time—-we are imitators.   That’s how we learn to talk–-we imitate our parents and others who take care of us and learn from them—-if they speak Spanish our language becomes Spanish, if Russian  then our language is Russian.   for most of us our language is English—that’s what our parents spoke and we imitated them!   That is how we learned to talk!   That is how we learned to walk––if for some strange reason our parents had walked around on both their hands and feet that’s the way we would walk!

We pattern our lives after those around us.   We reflect them, their values, their ideas, their personal characteristics, etc.   We are a reflection—an imitation—-of the significant people in our lives, unless we take intentional steps to be otherwise.  

As we pattern our lives after those around us, it is rather scary to realize that those around us pattern their lives after us.   Dad-–your children are watching and listening to you to find out what it means to be a Dad.   What are your actions and words teaching your children.   Mom–-your children are watching and listening to you to find out what it means to be a Mom.   They will pattern their lives after you.   What you say and do will be an indelible part of their life pattern.   What are you teaching them?

  • When we explode in anger at a motorist and give them the middle finger as you dangerous cut in front of them—-they are watching.  They are learning how to drive.
  • When we take time to take a homeless man and get him a meal at the local McDonalds—-they are watching.  They are learning how to care.
  • When we use “gutter language” your children are listening.  They will pattern their language after us.
  • When we tell our wife how much we love and care for her,  our children are listening.  They are learning about love and the language of love.
  • When we share your feelings of hurt and cry over an injustice to someone,  they are learning it is o.k. to cry if we or someone else is hurting.

There is a story that may or may not have happened, but it illustrates my point perfectly and I’m sure it could have happened:   A police officer made a traffic stop of lady in a nice new car.   He demanded to see her driver’s license and registration.    When he returned to her car and handed them back, the lady said indignantly:   “Why did you stop me?   I wasn’t speeding.   I didn’t go through any red lights!   The officer replied:   “No you didn’t do any of those things, but I saw you yelling obscenities at the man in the car in front of you at the traffic light because he didn’t move quickly enough when the light turned green.   I also saw you pass someone and honk your horn and give them the middle finger because they were going to slow for you and then rudely cut in on them..    Then I saw your bumper sticker that says:   ‘JESUS LOVES YOU’,  and I figured that the person driving this car  must be driving a  stolen car!”

Not only our children, but others are watching us all the time.   They may be looking for someone to pattern their life after.    What patterns are we showing them?

After whom are we patterning our lives?   Who are we imitating?  Are we trying to be imitators of Jesus the Christ?    What would happen if we really imitated Jesus?   Remember that the historical Jesus was a radical!    If we were to follow Jesus we would find ourselves in difficult places.

We would be:

  • Championing the underdogs of the world and what are considered lost causes.
  • Identifying with some of the “worst” people in society whose behavior raises the eyebrows of pious churchgoers and the communities we live in.
  • Following Jesus into prisons and halfway houses, into night clubs and dance halls, into AA meetings and AIDS hospices.
  • Trying to reclaim lives for God’s love and acceptance that have been rejected by the “nicer sort” of the populace.
  • Constantly praying and listening to the Spirit of God to know what is right and just in this world—even when it flies in the face of the usual standards and practices
  • Loving the unlovely and the unloving because they are God’s children.

A. Alves, the South American theologian, once said that “we could draw a map of any city that would show where Jesus would be if he were living in our time in that city.   There would be two areas of the city where we might find him.  ONE would be the parks and wooded areas where he would go to pray.  THE OTHER would be the sections of the city with the greatest pain and humiliation––the hospitals and bars and prisons and tenements and crack houses, and maybe some of the high schools .   Jesus would be in one of these two areas making the world more whole and more compassionate.    

Let us be imitators of Jesus!

National sclerosis of the Heart?

Does our nation  have “sclerosis of the heart?  What in the world does that mean??   It means “hardness of the heart“.  The “heart” is  a metaphor used over a thousand times  in the Bible to describe  the self at its deepest level.  We read about “closed hearts“, and “open hearts“; about “proud hearts” and “humble hearts.”;  In the Greek Septuagint (Old Testament in Greek) the term is sklerosa cardia—“hard heart.”  In the Bible, our hearts may be open to God or closed to God; and if they are open to God they are also open to our neighbor.   If our hearts, on the other hand, are closed to God they will also be closed to our neighbors.   As early as Exodus in the Old Testament, we read about the Pharaoh of Egypt “hardening his heart.”  Throughout the history of the Hebrews in the Old Testament and throughout the New Testament the people are indicted by the judges and the prophets and by Jesus as having “hard hearts” and turning away from God.    And if we turn away from God, it will show in the same hardness of heart toward our neighbors.

This Christmas Season is a good time to examine the opening question—does our nation have “sclerosis of the heart”?   Are we as a people infected with this spiritual disease of “hardness of heart”?

Jesus told the lawyer testing him that all of the law and the prophets are bound up in the Shema as Matthew quotes it:  “You shall love the Lord Your God with with all your heart,   soul, mind and strength.  That is the greatest and first commandment; and the second is like it;  you shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:37-39)    Jesus emphasizes that if, in the “hardness of your heart”, you have turned away from God, you will show  the same “hardness of heart” toward your neighbor.   In other words  you can’t love God and not love your neighbor.

I am concerned about the “hardness of heart” toward God and neighbor that I see in our country today!   I see it in some of the following instances, to name just a few.  I’m sure my readers can supply many more:

  • I see it in cutting food stamps to balance the budget.   Taking food from the mouths of children and elderly who receive the bulk of the food stamps.
  • I see it in the denial, in Kansas of the extension of Medicaid to over 150,000 needy people in Kansas and thus denying them health insurance.
  • I see it in the repeated attempts by politicians to repeal “Obamacare” as they call it, that is meant to provide health insurance to all, including those now denied it because of “pre-existing conditions” and who cannot afford it.
  • I see it in the Wichita Eagle when I see that over 11,000 people in Wichita alone have applied and met criteria for aid this Christmas season and giving to charities is down by 2/3 to 1/2 so far this season.
  • I see it in the celebrating of Black Friday more than the celebration of Thanksgiving—a turning toward ourselves rather than a turning toward God in thankfulness.
  • I see it in the character assassination that is a regular part of political campaigns.
  • I see it in the disregard of the common good for political advantage.
  • I see it in lack of concern for the homeless and the poor.

This is a serious illness that is infecting our nation.  We must truly ask ourselves as a society:   Do we have a nationwide epidemic of “hardness of heart”?   Have we turned from God and also our neighbor?    Think about it!!

Concern or Compassion—the difference!

We read the statistics of the number of children in Wichita public schools who are homeless and we are shocked and concerned about the large numbers—but how many of us know, personally, any of these homeless children?

Re read in our newspapers of 150,000 men, women and children who will be prevented from having Medicaid medical care because Kansas lawmakers refuse to accept the program that is a part of Obamacare.  We are concerned, but are any of us personally acquainted with any of those “statistics” on a first name basis ?  In all of the above “people problems”Christians may be concerned.   But we have no personal relationship with any of these people and therefore no compassion for them.   Jim Wallis writes , “A very wise old man told me the difference between concern and compassion.  Being concerned is seeing something awful happening to somebody and feeling ‘Hey, that’s really too bad.’  “Having compassion’, he said, is seeing the same thing and saying, ‘I just can’t let that happen to my brother.”   (Wallis, Call to Conversion, p. 49-50)

Compassion grows out of a feeling of relationship—this is my brother, my sister, part of God’s family; this is a child of God, and I must act, not just feel badly for them.

Jesus acted out of compassion many times in his ministry.  For example, in Mark 1:40-41 we read that “a leper came to him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.”   Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose.  Be made clean!”

I John 3:17 says “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”

Our lives and our cities are so structured that we seldom come face to face with poverty.   But doing that is necessary to trigger a response of compassion in our hearts.    The freeways of our cities take us over and away from the places where the poor live.   Our suburbs isolate us from the poverty of the inner-city.   We don’t see or smell or hear the poverty—we don’t hear the gunshots, we don’t see the victims of drugs and alcohol that are homeless on the “skid rows” of our cities.

I believe what Wallis says is true:     “Proximity to poor people is crucial to our capacity for compassion.   Only through proximity do we begin to see, touch, and feel the experience of poverty.   when affluent people find genuine friendships among the poor, some revolutionary changes in our consciousness can begin to tak place.”  (Call to Conversion, p. 51).

I have, in my experience found this to be very true.   At Bread and Cup ministries we make a point to sit down at tables with the poor and the needy and to listen to life stories and see needs firsthand.   Sometimes the persons  don’t smell very good.  Sometimes they don’t talk very “nice.”   Sometimes there is alcohol on their breath and we watch their struggles with addiction and think they are succeeding and then they break  our hearts when they fall back to old ways.   But we never feel  the same about them afterward.   That’s why, despite all the difficulties Bread and Cup has experienced in finding a place to locate, the volunteers keep working to provide for the needy.  That’s why Bread and Cup volunteers work their hearts out each week to provide food and clothing and fellowship.    These people  are our friends!. We feel compassion for these poor and needy and homeless people because we know them and love them. They are our brothers and sisters—and but for the grace of God, they are us! .