Wednesday, October 17, 2012

You Hang Out With Who?!?

“The world says be strong and Jesus says be weak and I will be your strength.
The world says look at the outward and Jesus says I look at the heart.
The world tells us you have to be good and Jesus tells us, if you make your bed in hell I will be there.
The world tells you, you have to pay for your mistakes and Jesus tells us, I've already paid for them. You are free, live in guilt no more.
Etc etc have a good day world.” – Sonny McDonald

Last time, we spoke about forgiveness and unforgiveness.  And the things unforgiveness can do to us.  I reshared a related quote on Twitter that fits another aspect of forgiving: "I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive." Henry Ward Beecher.  In the world, that and Sonny’s comments go together.  Take a look:

If you’re a parent and have children, you ask about who they spend time with and who they date.  If you’ve ever spent any time in any environment that requires any level of security, you quickly find out that past history is important.  It’s the same with job hunting.  And that highlights a vast difference between Christianity and the rest of the world.

Whether it’s in a crime drama or in conversation, how many times have you heard something like, “A leopard can’t change its spots.”?  That kind of statement is really saying two things:
  1. Others can’t change.  And
  2. I’m never going to forget that part of their being that I’m saying isn’t ever going to change.
That’s exactly how employment selection works, how security clearance decisions are made, how we determine if we’re happy with our daughter’s new boyfriend.  At least that’s the way the world deals with it.  If you’re the “leopard”, there’s a whole segment of society that you become segregated from.  Because there’s an assumption that there’s never any possibility of complete change.

And yet….  The world is double minded.  Change is thought to be impossible, but the world loves self-success stories of people overcoming their own leopard spots.  It’s an interesting contrast, isn’t it?  I don’t believe you can change, but I want to cheer you on in your self induced success at changing.  Despite that thought at the back of our mind that someone can’t change themselves, we want success stories of self change.  So, we create ways to help people write their own stories of self change.

There are the 12 step programs for just about any issue you can think of.  Some complain the steps aren’t Biblical.  But there’s a lot of Bible in them.  And they include spirituality.  That’s also one way where they start to break down.  Instead of God, there’s a Higher Power.  The problem isn’t that God isn’t named.  The issue is that the program lets someone with thinking issues choose that higher power.  So, it could just as easily be a door knob as much as it could be the Trinity.  You wouldn’t suggest that your auto mechanic ought to prescribe his own cancer treatment, but choosing whatever spiritual guide for life is a smart idea for someone dealing with uncontrollable problems?  It’s OK for them to do that because their thinking is clear in that area, even though it’s not in other important areas? 

Psychotherapy is very similar.  Except it just ignores the spiritual component altogether.  Or, again, leaves the choice up to the patient.  Just like the 12 Step program approach to a higher power, I question the ability of those who haven’t thought clearly in other important matters to choose wisely when determining their spiritual path.

In similar fashion, there’s a lot of use of psychiatric medications.  And there are problems, there, too.  Medication doesn’t deal with spiritual issues.  Also, if you think about what medication does for mental and personality issues, I'm not sure you can always prove that it’s the illness and not the symptoms that are being dealt with.  And there’s always the question of over-reliance on pharmaceuticals because the symptoms are masked or changed.

I’m not saying that 12 Step programs, psychotherapy, and psychiatric medicine are totally wrong.  They all do good.  But our spiritual life is as important as anything else in creating who we are and how we act.  If it’s ignored, changes are either only partial or surface only.  Which means there’s never a complete change.  Which reinforces the idea that “A leopard can’t change its spots.”.  In a way, they’re right.  But….

For the Christian, Jesus is an anchor, an immovable foundation – a foundation that can change what we can’t.  We really don’t have the capacity to change, but He can change us.  If you look at who Jesus spent His time with, who He went after, it wasn’t those who’d drugged themselves with their own ego into thinking they were perfect.  Jesus found sinners and offered them ways to change their spirituality, thinking, and actions.  Real change that is founded on an omnipotent God.

There can be change, in Christ.  So, I have friends who may use medication to keep certain symptoms in check, yet are doing an amazing work on the mission field.  And I get to spend time with those who’ve been in jail or been on drugs or alcohol, then found God.  Much more fun than hanging out with those who think their too good to need change.

One cautionary note: We’re not saying that if someone is violent, just saying they’re Christian will change them.  Nor is it necessarily good to let a supposedly reformed pedophile near children, without supervision.  We’re not omniscient, so caution, discernment, and wisdom are always preferred.

Now.  How have you seen God change you and others?  And, if you haven’t, wouldn’t you like to have that joy in your life?  You can by accepting the gift of salvation Jesus already made just for you.  It’s not a prayer, it’s a decision.  Won’t you make that choice, right now?

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