Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How to Encourage People in Pain

For the last few posts we have looked at ways to bring discouragement to people who are already discouraged. In my day we called it, "Kick em while they are down".

It has been said over and over that "Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded". This is a very disturbing and sad statement but it is not true. In fact, about every culture and group know how to hurt people who are already hurting emotionally and spiritually.

So why do we criticize Christians and the Churches to whom they belong come in for so much criticism?  I do not know exactly but I have some ideas why.

Because shooting victims is so far from what the Bible teaches. The core of Christianity is love. God is love. God offers grace and mercy while attacking the wounded depends upon justice, anger, bitterness and arrogance. (I am well acquainted with them all!)

Love and grace start by lifting others up with a special emphasis upon the sick, downtrodden and injured. The Bible says that we are to never allow anything that does not build others up come from our mouths. But boy do we ever violate that principal.

I read an article today that severely and harshly criticized Joel Osteen for his "Positive Confession Theology". The idea was that Mr. Osteen was not focusing enough on sin, bad behavior and God's justice.  There is no question that God is holy and that sin or a lack of holiness is rampant. I think Mr. Osteen would agree with that. However, he preaches about the positive results of affirmation and faith, hope and love.

In my experience, people are overwhelmed with their sins, guilt, shame and failures. What they lack is hope that God can love them. People tend to put up a lot of bravado and tough guy rejection of the need for God, but I think that often covers up a little boy or a little girls who believes there is no hope for them to be forgiven or redeemed.

Remember the Prodigal Son who shamed his dad, left home with the family inheritance and squandered it on wine women and song? He ended up in a pig sty eating with the pigs but knew he was too far gone to even ask the Father to take him back.  He knew his sin. He was overwhelmed by guilt. But most of all he was contaminated with shame.

His daddy accepted him back into the family with singing and dancing as well as a party. Dad could have lectured him to make sure he understood the damage he had done. He could have said, "Go down to the barn and sleep but he did not cause the son more pain.

Here is a video that Charley McMahan and I did last winter on this topic. Take a look and let me know what you think of it.

Gary Sweeten

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