Monday, February 20, 2006

To Be or Not to Be... A Neighbor... That is the Question.

Well, Mike gave a great sermon on Sunday about how to love our neighbors (everyone we ever come in contact with, that is). He talked about how to love our neighbors, even when they seem (or they're acting) unlovable. The good Samaritan in Luke 10 acted immediately and came to the aid of the Jewish man, instead of waiting until next time a need arose (because the Jewish man was unlovable).

Let me just say that I live for this stuff. I get the most joy in life by being Jesus to those in need. I love to bless others and to meet their needs in tangible ways. I pray for these opportunites to present themselves and love acting on them. And it fills my heart with joy to give Jesus the credit.

Now please don't get me wrong here; I'm not saying these things to puff myself up or to try to look good or whatever. I'm saying this because in some instances this has become a real problem for me. I've come to see (or God has brought to light) that I have this sticker on my forehead that says "SUCKER".

Mike Blackwood wrote about this some months back on his blog site.... about the homeless guys and the hotel room. Please read that when you get a chance. I feel like I suffer from a similar ailment. Sometimes it gets to the point that I give and give (which again, I love to do), but then I begin to be taken advantage of.

I have suffered from this my entire life. God has given me the spiritual gift of empathy, which the enemy knows very well. When I was a kid, I loved this gift. I was the confidante, counselor, and secret-keeper of all my friends. Also, I knew that Jesus and I had something special. As I entered my tweens and teen years however, it started becoming more of a curse than a blessing. I was bound to be the helper, confidante, and secret-keeper, even at my detriment and the detriment of others. I allowed myself to be used and abused because that's what (or so I thought) was expected of me. I wanted to see the good in everyone and their motives. I wanted to be a neighbor to everyone.

The sad thing is that I blamed God for many years, and cursed Him for my gift. I drifted into the vicious tide of running from the gifts (the empathy and my salvation) that He had given me and crashing into waves of depression when they caught me. I began to ignore God Himself. And though that still, small voice was always in my head, I found different 'earplugs' and distractions so I couldn't (or wouldn't) hear Him.

Thankfully the Lord and I have worked this all out; through many years of tears and counseling, but mostly through reading His promises to me. I now embrace this gift that He has given me. Being a daughter of Eve though, I still struggle from time to time. I have a hard time finding the line between loving my neighbor and being a doormat.

To put it plainly, I'm just naive. God has helped me though, to discern the character of others.... another gift that I've gotten to open. But again, in my own flesh and sinfulness, do I just get caught up in myself? Why is it hard for me to not only see that I'm being taken advantage of, but to do something about it or stop it from happening?

Let me give you a 'for instance'. I had this friend whose husband was a loser (to put it nicely). He would never bring his paychecks or stubs home, just whatever cash he had left on Fridays. Although he would never admit it, and God only knows where all his money went, he spent it on illicit things and would bring home a hundred bucks or so to his wife to pay the bills, food, medicine, etc. My friend would call me upset, and of course I encouraged her to look to the Lord (and to leave the jerk, even temporarily until he GOT A CLUE!!). I also would buy her groceries (they had two toddler boys), diapers, gas, whatever I could do. But this went on (on and off) for years (about five of them)! He finally started getting violent and she'd tell me about it. Again, I'd give her money, offer her a place to stay, pray for her, invited her to church (she even came a few times).

But I couldn't help this overwhelming feeling that I was just 'enabling' all of this. I had a hard time discerning if it was God giving me this feeling or my own fleshy anger toward her husband. But I would just keep on doing, giving, etc., with the hopes that she would come to lean on the Lord (instead of me). Anyway, we moved away and kind of lost touch. I know this sounds horrible, but I felt relieved. But my question is this: Was I being the right kind of neighbor? Was I right in helping her? I know I was right in the praying part... there's no question about that. But what about the tangible ways in which I thought I was 'helping'? Where is the line? When does it go from helping to enabling? How do you know?

I'm not just talking about this particular situation because this was just one of many. I seem to attract these folks. I know, without a doubt, that God puts some of them in my path. But then other times I feel that Satan puts the others there. What are your thoughts bloggers? When is it or how is it not good to help others? How do you know when to be or not to be a neighbor?

Blessings, Kir


Seth Pack said...

Hey John, long time no see. I'm Seth Pack, I used to go to SCC.

How've you been man?

Hit me up sometime,

Jesusgreek said...

You should ask that on doubt sunday -lol

But really, I deal with the exact same thing as a pastor. When do I or we (the church) help folks and when don't we. If we really believe Acts 2:45 then we would help whoever had a need. But how far does that go? Forever? For me I've had to learn to trust the little voice of discernment that God gives us. We have a famiy here at church that we have went above and beyond helping over the past 1 1/2 years. It came to a point where I had to ask myself were we helping or just enabling this family to live off of us? I felt that we had helped enough so for the first time in my ministry I told someone "no" when they asked for help. They left church the other sunday very mad. I felt bad for what happened but not for long. I really felt a peace that was God telling me I did the right thing. Later that week I recieved a phone call from the guy and he appoligized. He sid he knew we couldn't keep supporting them and he shouldn't have asked as much as they did. He was back Sunday with a smile on his face.
I say all that to say this, there is a big difference in helping and becoming an enabler. God calls us to help our neighbor, not to assist them to keep making poor descions and keep their cycle of despair going. Every situation is different so we have to ask that He let's us see all that is going on with not only the heart of Christ but also the mind of Christ. We must be wise as to how much we help and what kind of help we give.

Beth Leann said...

I also struggle with this. I have so much empathy and compassion for people that I sometimes get depressed due to their circumstances. I have also struggled with "hating this gift" and wishing that I could just not care. Some people have a difficult time loving others, while others of us have a difficult time setting limits.

One tough lesson that I have learned about myself is that much of this compassion is due to the spiritual gifts that God has blessed me with, but when I go overboard, I think some of this is due to my need to be loved and accepted by others. I have such a deep desire to please others, and to have them like me, that sometimes I cannot set healthy boundaries.