When Christians Do Good

We are seriously getting love aimed at us by a little church nearby. Out of the blue, the pastor had contacted me wanting to know if some of their members could do anything for us and he wouldn’t take no for an answer unless it really was no.

Today some amazingly nice folks showed up and hauled off to the dump our junk too big for our own vehicle, in one of the guy’s large truck.

Meanwhile, the ladies scoot in to do some cleaning while visiting with Heidi.

And meanwhile another great guy is walking me around our deck, explaining to me how he is going to prep the bannister and then paint it for us.

And they’re coming back tomorrow!

-Joe Hendricks

I embarrass Joe and Heidi on my blog a lot so I’ll try not to do it again today, but I want to show you how the church isn’t evil.

Joe is a cancer survivor and Heidi has multiple organs that are cancer involved including her brain. I know compressing their struggle into a single sentence seems rather cold, but I’ve written other blog posts about them, and I want to show you another picture today.

In spite of their amazing and horrendous struggles, their faith remains absolutely steadfast in God. They aren’t (as far as I know) involved in a church on a regular basis but rather, take God with them wherever they go, which is often into the mountains and onto the hiking trails near their home in Washington’s Puget Sound area.

I was surprised, very pleasantly so, when Joe posted the above-quoted statement on his Facebook page. It came out of a clear blue sky, as the saying goes. I guess that’s how miracles happen.

Maybe I’m overstating the point. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to do good things for other people without it being miraculous or even unusual? Not according to some atheists and people from other religious and philosophical traditions. All of the evil in the world is typically blamed on religion in general and Christianity in particular. Everything from the Lindbergh kidnapping to global warming has been blamed on Christianity (well, maybe not exactly). Even though some other spiritual people who disagree with the validity of Christianity claim to “respect our path,” there is little respect in describing us at our worst as pagan worshiping, war-mongering, racists.

I have to admit that I don’t often trust the church myself. I find the church rather intimidating. Beneath the facade of friendliness and good fellowship, what judgmentalism and harsh opinions do they harbor about me, a Christian who doesn’t go to church, who is married to a Jewish wife, has Jewish children, and who (if given a choice) prefers a siddur to a hymnal? On my blog, religious though it is, I am “flamed” more often by Christians than by atheists or people adhering to less traditional spiritual philosophies (though that could just be a result of me being beneath the notice of these other philosophies).

But this is exactly why Joe’s recent statement on Facebook is so important. The church can be a force for good in the world. The church can express itself as warmth, compassion, caring, and love. The church, often accused as merely a house of prayer and bigotry, can actually do something to help other people, such as hauling away junk, cleaning a house, doing some painting, and continuing to be a presence in the lives of two wonderful people who need the presence of God’s servants in their lives and in their home.

I know Christianity’s detractors will say that this is only one instance (and a rare one at that) of Christians doing something good. Then, these detractors will cite numerous examples from the mainstream news of Christians doing harsh, bigoted, rotten, and evil things.

But what makes the six o’clock news, Christians going a kindness (I don’t think Joe saw any cameras from CNN at his place the other day) or the Westboro Baptist Church (who I don’t consider Christian at all) desecrating the name of Jesus by picketing the funeral of another fallen American warrior? So who do atheists and various spiritual people look to when they want to get an example of who a Christian is?

OK, it’s not a simple as that, but sometimes it seems to be. Sometimes it seems like people just don’t want to see the good that Christianity does. They only want to point to its flaws, both in the present and historically. People seem to want to define themselves and whatever philosophy they follow in terms of who they oppose and the church makes a convenient target to oppose.

But they are also, at their best, a reflection of what they were taught by Jesus Christ. Visit the sick. Feed the hungry. Comfort the grieving. Make peace between one person and another. And although it doesn’t say so in the Bible, clean someone’s house when they’re too sick to do it themselves. Haul away the garbage that is too big for someone else to haul away. Look around someone’s home, notice that their deck needs painting, and then paint it.

In other words, do whatever good that needs to be done if for no other reason than because God is good and it’s the right thing to do.

If you have something against Christianity, you can react two ways. You can complain about Christians, or you can do what the best of them do. You can help people who need help instead of elevating yourselves by pointing at what the worst of those who claim to be Christian (but by their actions, show themselves to be anything else but) are doing.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. –Matthew 5:48 (ESV)

I don’t care who you are. If you want to be good, do good.

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18 thoughts on “When Christians Do Good”

  1. Why should any religion get the credit for people doing good, but not get the credit for people doing bad?

    I think it should be consistent either way, don’t you? Either the church gets all the credit or none of it. You can’t just give it the good and ignore the bad.

  2. @NotAScientist: Part of the problem is that people tend to give Christianity “credit” for all the bad and none of the good. I’m just trying to balance the scales at bit. Christianity is just a vulnerable to bigotry as any other group.

    @Esther: Thanks.

  3. Thanks again for your compassionate mention of us, James!

    They are returning for the third day of helping us today. I’ve found out this little church group has quietly helped a lot of people in this economically devastated rural community.

    Because they do it quietly, no proselytizing at all, few people even know about it. I look forward to joining their efforts as our siruation allows.

    – Joe

  4. Thanks for providing the additional details, Joe. I’m glad God arranged for you and this church to get together. 🙂

  5. “I’m just trying to balance the scales at bit. Christianity is just a vulnerable to bigotry as any other group.”

    The problem is that there are scriptures that specifically promote bigotry within Christianity. That isn’t just vulnerable…it’s promoting the problem.

  6. Christians, including Christian scholars, spend all their lives studying scriptures and trying to understand their meaning. Judaism (but not so much Christianity), believes that how the Bible is applied adapts over time to serve the needs of each generation (I tend to subscribe to the Jewish point of view). What you read in texts that are thousands of years old and translated from their original language into English may not carry the full flavor of the original meaning. Who knows if the Bible, as you understand it (and I have no idea who you are or what your background happens to be) is actually “promoting the problem.”

    In any event, you didn’t list the “problem scriptures” so I don’t know to what you’re referring. I will say that I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to defend scripture point by point. You no doubt have your mind already made up and Internet debates tend not to change anything.

    I’m not saying that all Christians everywhere are always good or that the Bible doesn’t present many difficulties in comprehension, especially in comparison to modern, western, progressive humanism, but I am saying that Christianity isn’t the perpetually evil entity that many atheists make it out to be.

    Read what I wrote in the body of the blog post. Do you *really* have a problem with what these people are doing to help out this couple just because the people helping are Christians? Would it make you feel better if they were a band of roving atheists looking for ways to make the world a better place?

  7. “Do you *really* have a problem with what these people are doing to help out this couple just because the people helping are Christians?”

    Not at all.

    My problem is in giving Christianity the credit for it. The people deserve the credit. Not the religion.

    “Would it make you feel better if they were a band of roving atheists looking for ways to make the world a better place?”

    There are many of these and yes, they do make me feel good. Why wouldn’t they? Don’t they make you feel good?

  8. People *are* Christianity. Faith isn’t a system of rules and regulations that people follow with machine-like precision. It’s a living, breathing, organic system that declares our responsibility to help other human beings and acknowledges that human beings aren’t the ultimate creators of all things in the universe. Faith gives us a sense of wonder in who we are and who we were created to be. You don’t have to agree with any of this. But does disagreement with another person’s life view mean you have to tear it down. Do you behave the same way toward religious Jews and Muslims? Do you go on the Dalai Lama’s twitter feed (yes, he has one) and tell him he’s doing it wrong?

    If you think that you can help others better than I can, then please step away from the keyboard and start doing so. I won’t mind. Honest.

  9. “People *are* Christianity.”

    I fundamentally disagree. But there we are, I suppose.

    “But does disagreement with another person’s life view mean you have to tear it down.”

    If it appears that unnecessarily bad things come from that person’s life view, then yes it does. Regardless of what good comes from it. Unless the good that comes from it is unique to that life view…but as it’s not, that’s not a concern of mine.

    “Do you behave the same way toward religious Jews and Muslims?”

    Yes.

    Of course, ‘the same way’, at this point, involves responding to blog posts and disagreeing with people.

    I treat religions and religious people equally. If I think a religion is harmful, I say so. And the three you mention are all harmful in certain, though different, ways.

    “Do you go on the Dalai Lama’s twitter feed (yes, he has one) and tell him he’s doing it wrong?”

    If I cared what the Dalai Lama said, I certainly would. Who says something doesn’t matter.

    “If you think that you can help others better than I can, then please step away from the keyboard and start doing so.”

    This isn’t personal.

    It’s very simple. Look at something like the Catholic Church. I will not deny that they have done many good things. But they have also done many horrible things.

    I propose throwing out the bad, and doing the good. And as most of the bad comes specifically from the religion, that means throwing the religion out. Because we don’t need the religion to do good.

  10. It sounds like you are defining yourself based on what you are against, which is this case is your perception of religion (not just Christianity). So by definition, you must be opposed to me because I’m a person of faith. It doesn’t really matter who I am, what I say, what I do, what I think or feel. You are opposed to me because of my religious orientation. I’m just a “type” to you, not a human being.

    You say this isn’t personal, but this conversation isn’t between atheism and Christianity, it’s between you and me (even though we are strangers to each other). All that being true, and since I didn’t invite you to this party, why are you here?

  11. “So by definition, you must be opposed to me because I’m a person of faith.”

    No. I’m opposed to your organized religion and the bad things it inspires and does.

    If you do or inspire bad things, then I oppose you.

    “All that being true, and since I didn’t invite you to this party, why are you here?”

    You made a blog post on an open, public forum, that I disagreed with.

    Welcome to the internet.

  12. @ James: Thank you for being fair 🙂 You are correct that the media headlines love to feature groups like Westboro as they value the “shock value” while the 1,000s of Christian organizations out there doing good on a daily basis are ignored because doing good just isn’t shocking enough. As a result many people such as Notascientist end up with a warped view of what Christianity truly is. Groups such as Westboro are abuses of organized religion & they are not doing what organized religion (or Christianity for that matter) teach. They are the failing of human beings to truly understand & practice their Christian faith.

    @ Notascientist: A word to the wise–Watch Your Heart! Despite your claim to the contrary your problem is not with “…organized religion and the bad things it inspires and does.” nor any perceived “bigotry” either in the Holy Scriptures or Christianity. If your claim were true then you would never have come to this blog site. Instead you not only came to it, but you kept coming back. You are not being honest with yourself in your claims. Something in James blog has touched your heart in some fashion & it is not with the things you claim (prejudice & bigotry in organized religion or Christianity or the Holy Scriptures or Christians). As I said, Watch Your Heart! Do not let this anger destroy you! We all have toxic shame which is often manifested in anger. The only shame with toxic shame is not dealing with it & letting it destroy you slowly from the inside as you destroy all around you on the outside. Check out the following: The True Self and the Story of Me @ http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/the-true-self-and-the-story-of-me/
    Also check out the blogs following this one as this subject is dealt with over several blogs.

  13. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, “eternallypresentfillingallthings” (long name). You may be making some assumptions about the motivations behind NotAScientist’s comments. I only bring that up because, as you noticed about me, I want to be fair. I visited your blog and notice that you have a interesting and varied history. You also seem to have found a home. May your walk with God be peaceful and rewarding.

  14. Hi, James 🙂

    Please forgive me if I caused offense–that was not my intention. Yes, I did make some assumptions, but they are based on my experiences with a wide variety of people in a wide variety of situations ranging from varied sorts of religious &/or social environments, 14+ years peace & wartime military, working 17+ years in the penal system, 20 years of marriage with husband, stepkids, adopted kid & grandkids, 38 years in the Western religious tradition (less a couple in Judaism) not to mention 47 years of living with myself (& my own toxic shame) as well as 10 years of being Orthodox with the ongoing healing of my own toxic shame/anger/pride; so my assumptions are more like very well educated guesses.

    Notascientist kept coming back here, so while something in your post piqued either his/her ego or self-worth or challenged a basic internal value, something also kept drawing him/her back–something he/she is longing for. He/she is in great pain behind all of that anger (hence my insistence to evaluate & watch the heart) & this merits our prayers on this person’s behalf. I was in no way being judgmental of Notascientist;, just making an observation about the anger & where that anger lies.

    Yes, I have found a home in the Eastern Orthodox tradition where the fullness of God’s love & truth are experienced through continuing communion (salvation as ongoing love & healing) with Him.

    FWIW: I truly like atheists! They have great faith–usually greater & stronger than many or most Christians.

  15. We’re all on some sort of search for meaning and understanding. We take many different paths. Ultimately, they lead to a single destination.

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