*This article is the second in a three part series. You can find the first part here: Transforming Faith.

Being a student and minister, there are times when I am required to speak or write about a subject or passage of scripture that I don’t feel particularly inspired about. This is especially difficult as my heart for others increases because I want to have tremendous passion, empathy, sympathy, conviction, creativity, etc. about the things that can and should matter in their lives. I know that all scripture is useful to the community of believers in a variety of ways, but it doesn’t always connect with me strongly (or I don’t connect with it) all the time or for every passage. In my own process of growth I have come to the understanding that those strong and loving responses come during the periods I am spending more time reading, praying, and listening and when I am spending more time with others. Despite my efforts to do both, I am experiencing what many would call a dry spell. So I asked for something to write about. Romans 12:15 was offered up and I accepted. Partly because I needed direction, partly because I love God’s Word even when I don’t feel great feelings, partly because I’m looking to regain some discipline, some passion, something, and partly because it sounded like something I might actually be able to connect to right now. It wasn’t… at first.

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:9-21 (Emphasis mine.)

Why did I keep coming back to it?
I wrestle with God’s word to keep from wrestling with others. I actively engage the word to keep from ignoring the world around me. It is through struggling to understand, struggling to connect, struggling to apply that I find deep meaning… not just in understanding intellectually, but in understanding deep inside the heart. Understanding better who I am and how I live. Understanding better who other people are and what steps I need to take to love them the way Christ has loved me. Sometimes that means days of reflection, other times weeks. Usually it means mulling over the thoughts and convictions for months until I am able to digest and internalize the truth.

What have I learned?
I’ve always been kind of an emotionally detached person when it comes to sympathy for others. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep is hard work for me. That doesn’t mean I am not happy for others when they are happy, or that I am not sorry for others when they hurt. It means that for me, those responses are more intellectual than they are a feeling or emotion. I’m terrible at empathy, and sympathy is often hard work for me. The reason I know this about myself is because I really do care. I don’t care so much about whether or not a person gets what they want. In fact, I’m a little harsh when it comes to that. But I do care about the needs and growth of others and because I care about those things, I care about how my interactions and relationships with other people impacts their lives.

Questions
What causes three adults, whose job it is to look out for the well being of others, to stand around and watch as a young teenage girl is beaten, robbed, and has her head stomped on repeatedly? Their employer said that they are just there to observe and report illegal activity and that they are now revising their employee guidelines/instructions. Are we any better when somebody tells us about a problem or need and we wish them well but do not take action? Is Paul telling us to respond emotionally to the events in the lives of others? If you only act because you respond emotionally, your life will be tossed about by whomever and whatever can make those emotions surface in you. Is Paul being literal, or do you think that he wants us to take time to share in other’s lives? Wedding and funeral customs of the time period were often week long events. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.

How have I grown?
Come back Wednesday and read part three to see how this passage connected with me.

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This entry was posted on Monday, March 1st, 2010 at 10:40 am and is filed under Devotional, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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35 Comments(+Add)

1   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 1st, 2010 at 11:36 am

“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”

Except liberals and Obama.

2   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 1st, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Christian – You have identified an important part of gospel orthopraxy, which in today’s evangelical climate, isn’t even taught much less practiced. We operate in the web of our culture and nation and we are indistinguishable from many others who do not profess Christ.

Thos verses in Romans undermine what generally passes for Christ following behavior in the west. These are the statuted we espouse:

* Pro-life
* Anti-gay
* Scripture inerrancy
* Doctrinal purity
* Large buildings
* Debt
* Thousands of “sects”
* Ecclesiasticl structure
* Communion particulars
* Baptism particulars
* Pastoral power
* Original language prowess
* Nationalism

But what we do not emphasize are:

* Mercy
* Humility
* Sacrifice
* Grace
* Esteeming others higher
* Living well below our means
* Uncommon love for “enemies”

We find purpose and fulfillment in the first list and we give lip/preaching service to the second list. I actually believe authentic Christianity is not very widespread here in the west. If it was, people would know it.

3   Mike    
March 1st, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Christian,
Excellent thoughts by the way. In answer to your questions, I have a few thoughts…

I think that some people are given the ability to empathize and sympathize with others, but I do not think that ability is necessarily better or worse than an intellectual understanding of someones pain, just different.

What I mean is that some of us think with our hearts, and others with our heads. Maybe a cool head and clear understanding is needed to solve problems, not just “feeling someone’s pain”.

I think that reason can be taken to an improper level, however. If we watch others who are hurt or sad and we do nothing to help them, I think that is just as bad as the person who gets so emotionally involved with a problem that they actually make it worse.

Our overarching motives should always be our love and a desire to help, tempered by our understanding that we should act in God’s will and within the boundaries that He sets.

Solving a person’s problems with their neighbor by shooting the neighbor is probably out of bounds. Acting as a mediator between them to resolve the differences might be the better tact, or maybe you should just lend them a car so they can look for a new place to live.

A more detached person might be able to mediate, a more emotional person might help them look for a new place. But they both seem like they could be valid responses.

-Blessings

4   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
March 2nd, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Mike,

Thanks for the comment and the thoughts. I agree. Neither are worse, unless the person who is one way more than the other fails to find balance.

To anybody else that might actually read this comment,

What difference does knowing the length and participation involved with weddings and funerals make in understanding Paul’s instructions? What about in relation to the idea that Paul is talking about sharing in each other’s lives?

5   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 6:50 am

“Solving a person’s problems with their neighbor by shooting the neighbor is probably out of bounds.”

Except when there are nationalistic interests at stake? Then he ceases to be your neighbor and becomes your enemy? Then killing is a divine design to solve international disputes?

I think Mike’s comment is very instructive as to behavior that reflects the life and heart of Jesus. I just cannot see where national interests override those same principles. In fact, the principles of Jesus override all other interests…always. Even if those principles cost us our lives.

6   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 8:20 am

Except when there are nationalistic interests at stake? Then he ceases to be your neighbor and becomes your enemy? Then killing is a divine design to solve international disputes?

Unless he is intent on killing his neighbor, and your use of deadly force is the last resort in saving the life of the one(s) he intends to kill, regardless.

7   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 8:38 am

I suggest a less than inerrant “discernment” of someone’s intent. The pre-emptive element contains many subjective assumptions, and the defense justification is still at odds with the teachings of Jesus.

Those believers who stood by and watched the martyrs go to their deaths were cowards who refused to obey Scriptural caveats to violence? And Hebrews 11 avoids mentioning that those who were martyred could have had God’s people intervene with violence.

8   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 8:45 am

I am still attempting to understand how we can be witnesses of Jesus, as we have been commanded, while simultaneously killing someone. The nuance escapes me.

9   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 8:51 am

I am a significant compromiser in several areas, so I do not speak from any spiritual perch. But I consider nationalism and patriotism to be draining the essence of following Jesus.

If we considered everyone our neighbor, and if we considered everyone higher than ourselves, we would view the Palestianians differently, the gays differently, the Muslims differently, the Democrats differently, and most importantly the scope of the ministry of Jesus differently.

10   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 10:29 am

I am still attempting to understand how we can be witnesses of Jesus, as we have been commanded, while simultaneously killing someone. The nuance escapes me.

I am still attempting to understand how we can be witnesses of Jesus, as we have been commanded, while simultaneously standing by while someone engages in killing an innocent person without the willingness to stop them if it were to require deadly force.

The nuance escapes me.

11   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 10:32 am

Those believers who stood by and watched the martyrs go to their deaths were cowards who refused to obey Scriptural caveats to violence? And Hebrews 11 avoids mentioning that those who were martyred could have had God’s people intervene with violence.

I’m not going to rehash the entire argument in this thread which I’ve already incisively conveyed in the “just war” thread, but you know that there is a difference in application between enduring persecution and allowing random violence and/or genocide, so continuing to harp on it is disingenuous, at best.

12   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 10:49 am

One man’s “harping” is another man’s continuing presentation. Feel free to withdraw from responding to my disingenuousness, at best.

13   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 11:03 am

One man’s “harping” is another man’s continuing presentation. Feel free to withdraw from responding to my disingenuousness, at best.

Continuing to post the same tired argument over and over (and over) again when refutation has been incisively provided and not countered in any real fashion is either: a) disingenuousness; b) a lack of reading comprehension; or c) an attempt at “proof by assertion and repetition” (see (a));

To be clear- There is scriptural precedent that the use of force (deadly or otherwise) to avoid persecution is not a path to be pursued by believers.

I am not making the argument that we should use force to avoid persecution. NOBODY on this forum is making this argument.

Your continuing to bring it up, as if it were in conflict with the view that deadly force is a legitimate tool in preventing random violence IS disingenuous on your part, because, in doing so, you are asserting that I (and others who disagree with your stance) believe that deadly force should be used in preventing persecution.

NOBODY is making that argument. NOBODY. So please get off that soapbox, because you’re asserting a lie by continuing to harp.

14   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 11:21 am

Christian was addressing the neighbor principle. You are asserting a lie, which makes you a liar as well as attempting to degrade commenting itself if the issue in the comment disagrees with your eternally inerrant stance.

I never addressed you personally, and in fact, was presenting my own views and questions. I actually hoped to makes a point without raising you ugly head into the converstaion, but as is customary, you road into the scene with you usual neighborly way.

Get off you Hebraic soapbox. Read Christians 3rd installment and feel free to assert you adhere to those principles. I am not your neighbor.

15   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 11:30 am

Over the years many friends and foes have noticed the carnal and abrasive way in which you police the comment section, which is indeed at odds with the policies and differences you “disingenuously” suggest this site represents.

But what does it really matter. The way of engagement and interaction on ODM sites and sites like this are the same. Of course the name change to Prophets, Priests, and Poets made a remarkable change in the tone and Christian love here.

The crninfo site was so much more…hateful. :cool:

16   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:01 pm

Christian was addressing the neighbor principle. You are asserting a lie, which makes you a liar as well as attempting to degrade commenting itself if the issue in the comment disagrees with your eternally inerrant stance.

Maybe I’m missing it, but what is the lie being asserted?

I never addressed you personally, and in fact, was presenting my own views and questions. I actually hoped to makes a point without raising you ugly head into the converstaion

The questions being asked were not addressed to anyone in particular, but without response were deficient in trying to drive a conclusion that was suggested to be universal (and were re-injecting the absolutist pacifist stance, which I see as foolhardy as the opposite stance of shooting them all and letting God sort them out). Your response to that, though, was directed at my response (injecting the martyrs and whether they should have defended themselves), and thus were asserting fallaciously that I would disagree.

Get off you Hebraic soapbox.

Maybe I’m missing it, but I don’t see that I’ve cited anything Hebraic here.

Read Christians 3rd installment and feel free to assert you adhere to those principles.

I fail a number of those frequently, which was why I really wanted Christian to write & publish his thoughts. I have a hard time with “filters” in some situations, and find there are a great number of periods where I’m forced to be “on”, which is incredibly draining. In fact, long before I’d ever read Christian’s article, I’ve had frequent conversations w/ Zan on how draining it is to be “on” all day (like with teaching or facilitating an all-day session) vs. being able to be “off” more frequently.

I am not your neighbor.

That’s news to me.

17   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:24 pm

I do not expect you to understand, or examine your own way of entering into a comment room. But here it is from my vantage point.

Christian said:

““Solving a person’s problems with their neighbor by shooting the neighbor is probably out of bounds.””

I found that interesting, and used my commenter status to expand the issue with some valid questions. You categorized my view and comments as

* harp on it
* same tired argument
* disingenuous on your part
* soapbox
* asserting a lie

Of course I never said you suggested violence in a general way, or that you suggested violence to avoid persecution. I never alluded to what you or anyone else believed. I was projecting questions juxtaposed against Christian’s interesting statement. They were made in all sincerity before Jesus Christ.

Here is how you categorized your views:

* incisively provided

You attacked me when I was not attempting to draw you into anything. And even if you felt it necessary to respond, which is your right as a commenter, your commenting etiquite lacks the neighborly principle that the post itself was addressing.

I do not expect you to recognize that paradox.

18   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Rick,
I have a question for you that may or may not go answered as it is from me.

Do you think that you are loving on this site?

19   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Joe – Sometimes and sometimes not. How about you since you have projected yourself into the converstaion with an implied slight to me?

20   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:45 pm

You two sure know how to make a guy feel good, adding all these comments to assuage his ego.

I keep rereading my article trying to figure out how we got here. At least the conversation relates to the text I quoted.

Rick, Chris L. is correct in that we all share a common understanding of how to respond to persecution. As far as I understand, you don’t think that the way we respond to any evil should be different than the way we respond to persecution. However, that does not make them the same thing. You don’t have to bring up persecution to have the conversation you want to have. (Unless you want to talk about how we persecute others. But that is also a separate part of the same issue.) From my perspective, it does sound as if you are ignoring what has been said about persecution.

Also, I disagree with #15 wholeheartedly. Others have complained when Chris L. didn’t respond. Participation does not equal policing. Carnal and abrasive is sensational and does not accurately represent Chris L.’s commenting flaws (of which he has admitted to having).

Chris L, your options in #13 are not the only ones and presenting them (let alone presenting them as the only ones) comes off as dogmatic (in the bad way).

Both of you, see my previous post about lying here.

21   Christian P    http://www.churchvoices.com
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:48 pm

#17 – I didn’t say that, Mike did.

22   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:50 pm

“At least the conversation relates to the text I quoted.”

Exactly. I never insinuated anyone suggested violence against persecution. My statement was made to offer a paradox.

My definition of carnal and abrasive includes these descriptions of someone sincere comments:

* harp on it
* same tired argument
* disingenuous on your part
* soapbox
* asserting a lie

23   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Then I was responding to Mike.

24   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:53 pm

From the OP:

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us?? and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 4:21-5:2″

We cannot even exhibit that in a blog thread, much less in real life. We all are Christians on paper. (KJV preferably)

25   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 12:56 pm

BTW _ I view Chris L’s views as sincere and passionate. I truly believe he believes them and has his reasons for doing so.

26   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 3rd, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Joe – Sometimes and sometimes not. How about you since you have projected yourself into the converstaion with an implied slight to me?

I would say sometimes I am and sometimes I am not. Sometimes, I think I am and the communication barrier causes others to see it differently.
I just find it fun that you are always there to point out my shortcomings and pile on with others but when someone upsets you give us two quotes like the following:

If we considered everyone our neighbor, and if we considered everyone higher than ourselves, we would view the Palestianians differently, the gays differently, the Muslims differently, the Democrats differently, and most importantly the scope of the ministry of Jesus differently.

Followed by:

I am not your neighbor

Could you imagine if I had such a thing? I can.

27   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 3rd, 2010 at 1:01 pm

To further illustrate my point. I wonder how you would have reacted if someone had said to you that you projected yourself into an open comment thread.

I find your words are a lot about love and how the church has lost its way and then I wonder what that means when I look at how you treat me and others you don’t seem to like.

28   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Off the subject: Ingrid has linked to a Francis Chan video. I hope DTW discerns her. :cool:

29   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 1:06 pm

#27 – If you are usuing me as the Biblical prism you will be sorely disappointed. My perspectives remains that from all extremes we are lacking the fundamental elements of following Jesus.

Without a massive revival all our knowledge, original language prowess, contextual expertise, are fairly worthless if not even counterproductive. Use me as exhibit A if you wish.

30   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 3rd, 2010 at 1:12 pm

#29. I don’t want to use you as exhibit A or Z for that matter. I just want to understand what’s written and how it gets put into practice.

31   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 1:15 pm

” I just want to understand what’s written and how it gets put into practice.”

I have more than I can say grace over policing myself. This entire back and forth was not to address all of our shortcomings in reflecting Christ, but how we can at least present our views on a blog thread without being labeled disingenuous by the blog administrator.

I believe the same tone is revealed on blogs like DTW.

32   Joe    http://christianresearchnetwork.com/index.php?s=john+chisham
March 3rd, 2010 at 1:16 pm

#31.
Fair enough. I have to get going. Have a good day all.

33   chris    
March 3rd, 2010 at 2:39 pm

but how we can at least present our views on a blog thread without being labeled disingenuous by the blog administrator.

It’s arbitrary Rick. Based on conversations off site and on site. With you or without you. Completely arbitrary.

34   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
March 3rd, 2010 at 2:47 pm

#33 – I am under no illusions as to how I am spoken of apart from the open thread forum.

35   Neil    
March 4th, 2010 at 11:46 am

Rick,

It is clear that you hold your views very strongly and you have caused me to pause more than once. Your comments along with other things in my life have made me rethink the nationalism I once held to.

That said, you could have transitioned from the literal neighbor to nationality neighbor with more of a buffer. Your pessimism again the American Church is extreme on occasions. Chris L., is correct when he implies that you used the slightest provocation as a springboard to your favorite topics.

Chris L.,

Your response to rick was obviously born from frustration and passion as well. That said, Rick makes a point when he highlights the manner and tones in which you addressed him. You were too quick to employ terms like “harp” and “disingenuous” in your responses.

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  1. Prophets, Priests and Poets » Blog Archive » Transforming Faith Part 3: Unfiltered    Mar 03 2010 / 1pm:

    [...] is the third and final part of this series. You can find the first two articles here and here. I would appreciate it if you left a comment about how God has transformed you. Since you have [...]