Dr. Metzger, your blog is so full deep, moving truths. The following statements/stood out as I read your blog over and over.
“God is for us and not against us” – This reminded me of the prophecy of Ezekiel recorded in Ezekiel 34: 1-10. He prophesied against the irresponsible shepherds of Israel. These shepherds instead of feeding the flock, they feed themselves and clothe themselves with the wool. As a result of their neglect, the sheep are scattered. In verse 10, God declares that he is against such shepherds. The very thought of God being against you or anyone is paralyzing. Who will you run to for help? You never ever want or get God to be against you! Ezekiel uses the same phrase in 5:8. He uses this phrase to express God’s judgement. it is so calming to know that God is for me and not against me, in Christ.
“As we ascend to Christ in faith because of the out pouring of God’s love into our hearts, we are free to descend to our neighbor in love”
“Like God who is for us, we are now free to exist for others …”
Just like you,”I will give myself more fully to the care of others as a response of gratitude to God and free exercise of the divine love”.
I agree with Bonhoeffer’s argument that “Jesus is the man for others and the church is the community for others”. Jesus influenced every person He came into contact with. May the Church follow His footsteps. I wonder how this can be achieved in our individualistic culture! My limited observation these past few years is that, very few people/Christians seem to have time for the “other” – everyone is either busy, unavailable or tired. How will the church have time for the victims of violence and abuse when we fail to make time for those with in and are hurting? Ministering to the victims of violence most often means disrupting your busy schedule and comfort. It will require taking time to listen. Unless we – the Church, yield to the Holy Spirit and let Him produce the fruit of the Spirit in us without which we cannot hear the cry of the victims of violence. Jesus our perfect advocate was so anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Acts 10:38; “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him”.
The wise pastor/chaplain – the one who will not only give spiritual care well but will be doing it joyfully, will exercise pastoral care with spiritual strength derived from God, the leading of the Holy Spirit and with ample help provided by family members of the patient while exercising their spiritual gifts and calling. For such a pastor/Chaplain, prayer is a very significant part in his/her preparation to care for someone of another faith tradition or any person who is approaching death. A pastor/chaplain who maintains a healthy relationship with the Lord will exhibit virtues such as those described in Galatians 5:22-23. These virtues; love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, are characterized as “fruit” in contrast to “works”. Only the Holy Spirit can produce them, and not our own effort or academic training. When the Spirit fully controls the life of a believer (which I believe a pastor/christian chaplain should be), He produces all of these graces in the life of that believer (a pastor is first a believer before he becomes a pastor). I acknowledge that the pastor/chaplain’s effectiveness will also require practical preparation and common sense.
Now, if the pastor/chaplain’s motivation is to perform a duty in his/her own strength, then very serious mistakes a bound to be made and people will be hurt.
In response to the following paragraph in your article,
“Some Evangelical Christians may struggle with the reflections in this article. They may fear that it advocates for multi-faith end of life care without care for the gospel and truth. As those committed to biblical Christianity, we must always be prepared to give a reason for the hope within us when asked, as 1st Peter 3:15 states. However, it also states that we must always do so with gentleness and respect. Gentleness and respect require that we do not force our views on others. Yes, as Christians committed to the biblical hope, we long to share about our faith in the eternal security of life with God in the resurrected Jesus through faith in his love poured out by the Spirit (Romans 8:18-39; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Romans 5:5). But hopefully we also desire to live out the biblical exhortation to do for others what we would want them to do for us (Matthew 7:12). If we wish to be treated with respect and not have others force their views on us, no matter how well-intentioned, we should respect them and not force our views on them. If we demonstrate respect for the wishes of the dying, their faith traditions, and our shared humanity, they may very well ask us to share our views. However, we must guard against bait-and-switch tactics and trust God for his leading rather than force conversations.”
this is what I have to say:
I would have loved to learn from your personal experience; how you failed to show respect and gentleness and how you corrected that in your own life. Or how you were tempted to employ bait-and-switch tactics and how you overcame that temptation. Or a situation when you forced a conversation and how that impacted you when you discovered that you just did it. Or, how God turned around what seemed to be a blunder into a blessing.
Chaplains go through a lot of emotional suffering as they live out the biblical exhortation to do for others what they would want others to do for them by showing love and compassion. I sincerely do hope we pray for them and encourage them. God be God
Cross-cultural relationships don’t just happen. Healthy cross-cultural relationships are hard to form, harder to maintain and easy to destroy. Serious effort and sacrifice must be put into the equation. Such relationships require time, wisdom, intentionality, great sensitivity as well as the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
I want to share with you what we are doing at our Church in order to develop these very important and necessary cross-cultural relationships.
At our Church, we have started a class for the entire congregation. In this class, we are looking at the key things we need to incorporate in our Church life and ministry in order to enhance sensitivity towards our fellow brothers and sisters of other cultures and race.
We have created a platform where people freely talk about their individual cultural background. As a result, we are celebrating the rich cultural diversity we have in our Church. We acknowledge that in Christ, we are all equal not just in regard to our standing before God but also in status in our community as a Church.
We started with the basic things which we believed would make every individual feel important. These included:
Learning to pronounce each individual’s name right
Seeking to know the meaning of those names. In some cultures, you can learn much about a person’s history, circumstances at birth, family history, the main characteristics of their culture, as well as their traditional belief system if you give them opportunity to explain to you what their name means.
We are learning to be good listeners. Through this, we understand their personal interests as well as their point of view.
We are encouraging all the members of our congregation to show hospitality to others with different cultural background.
Cultivating a discipline of respect and valuing people. Respect is a virtue I always have believed to be the number one ingredient of a healthy platform for cross-cultural engagement. When you respect someone, you are honoring the worth and the dignity of that person. You are acknowledging their unique individuality. This means that you are going to take their preferences and ideas seriously. A general attitude of respect assumes that each person has something to teach us. Respect is merited by all human beings because they are created in the image of God. There is a longing among all the people to have a sense of purpose and worth. To satisfy that longing in all of us, we must respect each other.
All these are taking us far in building positive cross-cultural relationships within our congregation.
1John 3:18; “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
1John 3:23; “And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.”
1 John 4:7 – 11; Beloved let us love one another for love is of God: and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God ….
vs 11, “ Beloved if God so loved us , we also ought to love one another”.
For a long time, I have had a stigma attached to the whole idea of confrontation. Until recently, whenever I heard the word confront, my mind would be flooded with things such as; fighting, hurting each other, death threats, character assassination, demeaning, attacking, lawsuit and so on and so forth. Brother Joseph L. made a statement which intrigued me. He was responding to one of my blogs. This what he said; “Sometimes confrontation is necessary in the work of advocacy. Our impurities seem to come to surface under the pressure of confrontation”. As I explored more about this whole idea, I came across this quote by Dave Anderson which aroused my interest in this subject even more. He said; “Demonstrating love is what truly pleases God. Thus, we must confront, for to fail in this discipline is to evince apathy and indifference towards an individual’s welfare and potential. But we must confront in love, doing so for the right reasons and with just motives. We confront to improve the character or competence of an individual, to preserve our culture, and to protect the organization’s future”. When I put these together with the definition of the word “confront”, I see clearly that confrontation is constructive. There is absolutely nothing wrong in facing a situation that makes you uncomfortable or in facing someone with facts and doing so with the right attitude, the right way.
Consider the following scriptures with me:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hear you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the Church, let him be to you like a heathen”
Inn Galatians 2: 11-14, we have a record of apostle Paul’s confrontation with apostle Peter. Paul writes;
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him face to face, because he was to blame; for before certain men came James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the Gospel, I said to Peter before them all, if you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?”
There are many other passages of Scripture which emphasize this discipline. I can not quote them all here. But this is my admonition. We all make mistakes. Those mistakes can result in harmful effects if they are not corrected. However, Correction must be done in love. When we learn to confront and to express our honest feelings to one another, bonds of trust begin to form. Confrontations usually have a counterintuitive effect of deepening a relationship. Do not be timid. Stop choking your convictions. Ask God for wisdom and Let the Holy Spirit guide you.
Listening is an essential part of communication. No communication happens until we decide to listen. Speaking and listening are like a nut and bolt; neither is much good for holding a machine together with out the other. In James 1:19 , James admonishes us saying; “So then my brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
It is important that we learn to listen patiently, and attempt to experience what others are transmitting. No basic communication occurs until we listen so sympathetically and attentively that we hear more than words. Natives need to be heard and encouraged to speak openly what they feel.
“Mohandas K. Gandhi, Known by many people as “Mahatma”, was born in India and lived there until as a young man he went to Great Britain to study law. He then spent twenty years in South Africa, struggling against the government’s racist policies. During those years he visited India and was never out of touch with Indian people. But he finally returned to live in his homeland, a leader of the Indian efforts for independence commanded him to spend the first year in India “with his ears open but his mouth shut.” His first important task was to listen”.(Louis Fischer)
We need to learn from this great leader. Missionaries go to the mission field as expatriates and try to address viewpoints, issues, and cultural matters they do not fully understand. They end up making lots of blunders simply because they have not taken time to listen first. My exhortation to missionaries who are doing a noble work among the nations is, “listen to the national”. They need to be heard. By so doing, unnecessary antagonisms will be avoided.
In my encounter with other cultures, prayer has been and will continue to be my number one priority. The words of Jesus Christ recorded in John 15:5; “Without Me, you can do nothing”, is the truth. This truth motivates me to seek the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. I need His wisdom; the wisdom that comes from above that James talks about. I do not want to go in my own strength. Second, I observe, listen and ask meaningful questions more than talking about my agenda, in the first few months of my encounter with them. This is because I want to understand them. I want to make sure that I understand and affirm how and why they behave and respond to particular situations the way they do. This would help me to understand that culture’s internal aspects such as: their concepts of personal space, their ideas regarding modesty; their concepts of leadership, fairness, as well as their beliefs of how children are raised and how they understand truth. Likewise I would let them ask me any questions they may have.
Names of people and places are so important in some cultures. Just by asking the meaning of a person’s name or the meaning of the name of the village, one would discover a lot about their history, struggles and belief system.
Dr. Metzger, once I read the definition of eugenics in the dictionary I have as “the science of improving the human race”, I must admit that I was stunned by the whole idea. I thought to my self that to even have a discussion who believes that there is some possibility of improvement, that discussion will have to begin with kind of assumptions this individual has about the nature of man as well as the sinfulness of man.
Man is a created being; created by God. when God created man, He formed the spirit of man within him. (Zachariah 12:1). No one race is better than any other. God created man with a free-will, the ability to choose. It will be admitted that man’s will is weakened because of sin and only God change this situation. Actually God does not improve human situation, He takes care of it through Christ.
Scripture declare further that; “It is He that has made us and not we ourselves”. I would emphatically assert that a created thing cannot improve itself; only the creator can.
The following paragraph from your blog impacted me.
“In the Christian Scriptures, one finds the combination of ethical prescriptions—such as to love one’s enemies and to care for the orphan, widow and alien in their distress, regardless of the consequences to the seeming pleasure of society at large, economics included—and emotive predictions—such as the envisioning of a society of equals, where the poor are lifted up and the rich and powerful are humbled. These Scriptures do not discount the tribal instincts that we all manifest. In fact, it acknowledges them, but encourages us to move beyond them to care for the dispossessed. It will involve preserving the ‘non-productive’ elderly. It will entail our society learning from the past when we failed as a society to be “non-violent toward little brown Vietnamese children” caught up between the ideological forces of the Cold War, as Dr. King lamented. Such education should lead us to care for African American young men who are often endangered in our racialized country, and to welcome refugees from troubled hot spots abroad like Syria lost at sea and in the desert in the ideological war with terror’
Recently, 1 Samuel 16:7 came to my mind. It says;
“Man looks at the outward appearance, but The Lord looks at the heart”.
The heart is internal-not seen by those around us, but is the very essence of life. It is the center of hidden emotional, intellectual, as well as all moral activity. It is the inner self which thinks, feels, and acts and therefore central to man. Because it is hidden, it is so easy for us to not give adequate attention to it. Scriptures reveal several conditions of the heart. I will mention just a few of them: Jeremiah 17: 9-10 says that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Psalm 101:5 tells us that; “The one who has a haughty look and a proud heart Him I will not endure”. Ezekiel 11:19 talks about a stony heart. John 14: 1; – a troubled heart; In Acts 5:13, Satan filled Ananias’ heart. Matthew 5:8 – a pure heart. We should not only put emphasis on our outward appearance only but should also pay even more attention on the hidden man of the heart. How? By checking my attitude. Listening to what comes out of my mouth for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. Dr. Metzger expressed it so wonderfully when he wrote in one of his article that:
“Purity of heart is not an isolated phenomenon in Scripture. Further to what was noted above in Isaiah 6:5-7, one sees a fundamental connection between purity of heart and eye and mouth. Purity also involves innocence of hands. Those who are pure of heart are not violent. They do not shed innocent blood. They are peacemakers (See Proverbs 6:16-19; see also Psalm 24:3-6). They pursue righteousness and flee youthful passions (2 Timothy 2:22); they are obedient to the truth, which involves sincere brotherly love (1 Peter 1:22). Indeed, those who are pure of heart are pure in other ways.” This is a necessity in the work of advocacy.
I think of refiners who attempt to purify molten metal from all its dross in order to create objects of honor, beauty, and strength. They put the unrefined metal in a pot or a furnace and heat it until all the dross was burnt out of the metal. God uses different means (some not so comfortable) to remove impurities from our heart. This is absolutely necessary because it is only after the removal of all impurities, then we can see God. We need to yield to God’s purifying processes and “count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete and lacking nothing” (James 1: 2-4)
There would absolutely be no point to live a “Christian life” and in the end not see God.
”The pure of heart will truly see God. They will understand God’s ways. They will experience the beatific vision”(Dr. Metzger). They will execute the work of advocacy effectively. I want to be one who sees God and who listens to God, as revealed in Jesus. Those who do so are truly blessed.