Things I Think…
1. The last column of the year…and what a year it’s been...
2. I pretty much expected to die this year, but I didn’t…which can be more confusing than you would think it would be…
3. What I have watched die in our society is the virtue of empathy…the ability to feel a commonality with others that leads to a sense of communion. We have never been more tribal or cared less about each other…we seem to believe that the stakes are too high in the culture wars to allow for Christian love and decency. The only possible outcome of this is bloodshed…both real and metaphorical…when we lose the connection of a common humanity, we begin to die…and look for others to slay before we go…
4. As empathy has died, certainty has enjoyed a revival. We are certain we know the motivations of politicians and doctors, the biomechanics of pandemics, the efficacy of drugs, the way economies work, the right way to do everything and that Jesus is on the side of our tribe. We are morons wearing academic caps and gazing lovingly into a carnival mirror…
5. I am certain of very few things because it has almost become impossible to parse information for truth. The clergy and scientists whom we have relied on for help have chosen tribalism and the “news” has whored itself out to certain tribes and peddlers of pills for erectile dysfunction…which could be a metaphor for how well a society functions under these conditions…
6. The pandemic continues…and our divisions make it impossible to have a unified effort to deal with it. No crisis in my lifetime has been as badly bungled by all involved and the results are and will continue to be tragic. All I can do at this point is take precautions and pray that God have mercy on a people who will no longer have mercy on each other…
7. When I was a dispensationalist, we were taught that Israel is Gods time clock. Now love of America has superseded Israel and the state of the country according to political conservatives is the measure of what God is doing…this is heresy, but it preaches and sells well…
8. Just as in 1st century Judaism, the church in America has no place for a suffering, dying Savior…so like 1st century Judaism, we will find ourselves without one…
9. Sometimes when I ponder these things, I sense the laughter of God…from His throne…where all things are in control…
10. Many thanks to Duane Arnold for faithfully providing us with real things to think and to Kevin for doing the same. Special thanks to all of you for sticking with us as we enter our third decade online…may God richly bless you with Himself in the year to come…
Freedom plagues my mind as 2021 fades. Can political freedom produce the kind of souls that are necessary to sustain it? Lately that answer is no. Freedom thrives where personal responsibility is valued as highly personal freedom.
Worst of all I have begun to wonder whether the Gospel as we know it is capable of producing the kind of souls necessary to sustain the church in the midst of the withering blasts of a hostile world. Is this Gospel producing the ‘free indeed’ claims that Paul makes.
Let me press the matter. Socialism fails because it cannot create the kind of soul that is necessary to sustain its benevolence.
Torah failed in that it could not produce righteousness. If our Gospel does not produce a people led by the Spirit then we have a deficient Gospel. I ponder this often.
That was not to hijack the “things” but I am wroth to discuss empathy being suspicious of its outcomes. It also fails to produce fruit of righteousness and quite often produces the opposite.
It was empathy that moved Christ from heaven to earth and to take on human flesh.
You are worried about things I am only tangentially concerned with…empires rise and fall but the Gospel is forever.
We are not trying to form good citizens, we are preparing souls to meet the Savior.
Part of our freedom in Christ is the freedom from temporal concerns that we might suffer as He did and hasten His coming…
#3 It’s really difficult sometimes, but I work hard on empathy, especially with those with whom I may not agree. Sometimes I hold my words because some fights aren’t worth starting. Other times, I do what I need to do (like being one of the few masked at church last Sunday, although we have Omicron among us). If some of us who profess the name of Christ can show His love to others, it may help. Plus, the commandment to love one another had not changed.
I know people on all sides of these debates…and while I wonder at times about how they process information, most are trying to do what they believe is right.
Sometimes, we have to love our neighbor from a distance…
Michael-I agree with loving from a distance, but a smile and a kind word can keep communication lines open for the future.
Yes, it can…
Just to be clear — my concern was the Gospel and the church not the body politic. However I do not think them as distinctly separate as the tendency here. A truly free people are able to manage self-government. Specifically because they are free and can manage themselves.
Why the word empathy which is a decent though compromised English word. But it is extra biblical and the text of scripture does not lack for expression of his love for us.
You call on it often and this is a change as I perceive it. For me the word too often means indulging bad behavior out of compassion – not transforming those who are recipients.
It’s a discussion point not a hill ….
The Gospel has flourished under every iteration of human government…even ours which declared freedom while keeping millions of human beings as personal property.
When empathy is parsed so as to be negative, our souls are becoming withered…empathy is the starting point for compassion…which is anything other than extra-biblical…
I have to go to a doctors appointment…back in a while…
What I read here is a description of a fallen rebellious world. The Serpent told Eve that she’d be wise as God. She wasn’t, we aren’t, but we don’t quit trying.
God help the Church. Save us from the wolves. We are too easily conned.
God keep the wise, the humble who love God’s plan of salvation….
When empathy is parsed so as to be negative, our souls are becoming withered…
What could display empathy more than the Incarnation? And while we’re not divine (far from it!),
we are called to be like the One who was incarnate…
Can empathy be misused? Yes, just like every other human characteristic. But may we never think of empathy as something negative. And, I would add, we need more holy empathy in this world, not less.
My critique is of a deficient Gospel. Since retiring I hear many sermons but not Gospel.
The Gospel announce a king and the power of his kingdom.
Kingdom is transformation. Incarnation was inauguration but new creation is the outcome. Without it there is no Gospel. I care for nothing else.
Empathy… where did it go and how can we get it back.
A person I considered to be one of my best friends told me after my daughter’s death: Oh well, we all live and we all die. And my mother wished me to have “a great Christmas,” as if that were possible.
Yet there were many people who grieved with us, and still grieve with us. How did they learn empathy and the others didn’t? I fear I am also lacking in empathy, but I think all I can do about it is pray for help in this area and watch/copy those who have it. And to show mercy to those who don’t have empathy, because I am not sure they are not aware of this lack, and it’s not intentional. And I don’t think it has much to do with politics.
WELL SAID – better by far than my comment! ! !
because I am not sure they are not aware of this lack,<<<
I am not sure they are aware….
You do well here and keep us all settled and grounded. Your love never falters.
Dear Xenia, I think empathy is a gift – too many folk think they are saying something “wise” when they aren’t.
Pray you have experienced God’s supernatural comfort!
I think our empathy diminishes to the degree that we exalt other things over Christ and His love expressed through us.
Politics have become one of those things…for some, the cultural stakes are perceived as being too high for compassion…
“For me the word too often means indulging bad behavior out of compassion – not transforming those who are recipients.”
I’ll be honest…when I read this it sounds like the prelude to a rant about welfare cheats.
The story of the prodigal son must stick in the craw of many…
I am very close to the level of my own ignorance at this juncture…but what conservatives fail to grasp is that they failed to conserve the means to turn personal responsibility into personal profit in many cases.
They sold that to the major corporations for campaign donations.
Just to make everyone feel better…liberals fail to understand that we live in a fallen world and some people will do evil or soak the system no matter how compassionate.
These issues are beyond me…so I focus on the Gospel only…
“Welfare cheats” ?!!!!
Um 🤦♂️🤦♂️🤦♂️ No
First, I have been praying for you on the loss of your daughter. I can’t think of anything harder that can happen to a person besides the death of a child that one has loved and raised.
I think empathy starts with acts of kindness, the types that the Bible talks about in all of the “one-another” verses. We all want to “feel” empathetic. For some of us, it may come easily, but I think that others need to practice the biblical “one-anothers” that help lead to the development of that quality. An example from my own life-I am very empathetic with people that seem receptive to help and respond positively. Then, there are the others who are either hard to feel compassion towards because all their problems seem to be of their own making, or who have treated me so badly (a particular close family member) that I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Yet, God calls to a higher standard of behavior. Years later, I’m on good terms with both, although I do maintain some healthy boundaries. So, I think we can learn empathy, but we really need to practice.
Transformation is a process and I sometimes worry that my own process has either slowed to a crawl or stopped.
It is most noticeable when I give too much place to other causes…even noble ones.
“Just to be clear — my concern was the Gospel and the church not the body politic. However I do not think them as distinctly separate as the tendency here. ”
I view them as very separate, but I think that’s been obvious.
The concerns of the nation and the concerns of the kingdom are at odds at too many points…I can only have fidelity to one or be a traitor to both…
We were privileged to gift a single mom and her 13 year old son this Christmas. My first thought was how do we know they are really needy and not ” welfare cheats.” Turned out the gift coordinator knew them personally. We gave a ham from our freezer, 2 shirts and a pair of pants to the boy and my daughter bought mom a nice gift certificate….
And I have peace that it wasn’t wasted on cheaters….
The lack of compassion and empathy is what transforms. It transforms the Church into something that is unrecognizable.
I used to worry about Trey helping “cheats’…people with signs on the corner, etc.
He is constantly buying them meals, etc.
God told me it wasn’t any of my business and it counts as “you saw me hungry and fed me”…even if they just ate.
#4 – Spot on. This, to me, is more disturbing than loss of empathy. The absolute certainty with which so many explain what is taking place in the world today is frightening. From the guy I saw at Costco strutting into the store wearing a “Trump Won!” tee shirt to close, long-time friends who KNOW all about the “plandemic” and the dangers of the vaccine, totally rejecting medical science, to the Nevada pastor who urged his congregation to reject the vaccine as it contains a “ tracking device” ( I wonder if he has an iPhone), this certainty seems to be as deadly as the pandemic. That unmerited certainty makes intelligent discussion impossible.
As for empathy, it is a gift and necessary for compassion but it can also be misunderstood (see Xenia’s comment). And I mourn the diminishing presence of true empathy.
The bible does speak of empathy. He took on flesh and dwelt among them. That’s empathy.
I agree with Dread that something is wrong with our Gospel, but probably for different reasons than he thinks. The Gospel should produce fruit that in some way looks like Jesus. Jesus carried out the ultimate act of empathy in the incarnation. We should actively be doing the same. I just don’t see it.
Side note – If you are worried about people living lavish lives on welfare, I’d urge you to place yourself in a ministry that works with people on welfare. I think your perception will be changed I have known hundreds of people on welfare now, and they all lived in abject poverty.
Josh, the folk on welfare need counseling. Abject poverty should be temporary, not permanent…
Just my opinion, of course – once in a while there ARE extenuating circumstances, I know
Absolutely, Em. They need a path out. I just push back at the narrative that these people are living lives of luxury while taking welfare.
That narrative has not been on this thread AT ALL. You’re chasing Sasquatch.
Yeah, Dread. That wasn’t a response to you. Just a side note, as marked. Only slightly connected to Michael’s welfare cheat discussion.
My bad, i just read back and see how the first part of my comments was a response to Dread, then in my side note, I continued to use “you”, meaning the generic “you” who is reading the comment, but looking back, it certainly looks like I was still responding too, and therefore, ascribing those thoughts to Dread.
Apologies, soppy commenting on my part.
In an all-too-on-brand mistake, I typed soppy instead of sloppy.
What is the role of the church in healing inner cities? Is that even a thing? And what about the church influencing the state on the matter? Over the years I have cited some thoughts over and again.
And thanks Josh… I see how that happens. I just wish it was easier to have a discussion.
AS to your two questions, I have no clue. Would love to hear your thoughts.
Is it left to the state?
Does the church have a role other than food pantries and other mercy ministries?
How do we break this strange view of church and state that plagues our discourse?
I think the church has always been involved and that in fact the more the church has been marginalized in public discourse the worse our cities have fared.
Before any economic discussions take place…understand that a person working full time in my town for 16.00 an hour will still be a couple hundred bucks shy of making rent.
The economic system that created a viable middle class in my youth no longer exists.
You will probably understand that after twenty years of being the Phoenix Preacher, it’s a large ask to get me to trust churches to do much…especially those with the size to make a dent.
If border issues are any indication…the last thing we need is the church advising the state about the poor.
I would guess the solutions would swing from debtors prisons to deportation…
Y’all have a happy new year.
I’m in bed sick and don’t need more acrimony.
Warning shots heeded.
Not warning shots…but things to consider.
I don’t feel any acrimony toward anyone here…those folks have left the building, occasionally with help.
These discussions may get heated, but are still helpful.
“These discussions may get heated, but still helpful.”
One of the good aspects of the phoenixpreacher….
Pastor Dread, get well – stay in bed and get well! ! ! …. 😘
BD. Get well. No acrimony.
#2. This is something I suspect the average Christian may not be able to process. The default mental process is to view prayer, healing and extension of life as the desired outcome in all situations.
It’s a brave new world when you don’t pass away as expected. There’s still children and spouses, bills and obligations, loss of identity, vocation, sense of purpose, physical ability. My empathy (yes…empathy) is with any primary household wage earner who encounters a life altering event.
Regarding your comment with Trey feeding people…. I had the same struggle myself. God had to (gently) smack me upside the head and remind me that I am not the judge of their hearts. I think it’s awesome that Trey automatically thinks of feeding someone who appears like they may need it, simply because God said so, and without qualifying.
Trey is drawn to anybody he thinks is an underdog or outcast.
It’s a needed rebuke to my cynicism…
Yep, I find He’s often putting people in our lives He wants to use…. For me, my children keep me often more honest than I’d like to be…. Very humbling to know I’m being watched (and learned from!) All. The. Time….