Tag Archives: suicide

Vayigash: Are You Willing to Save Someone’s Life?

joseph-and-pharaoh“Now when the news was heard in Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants.”

Genesis 45:16

Pharaoh was delighted when he heard that Joseph’s brothers had come to Egypt. He immediately made provision to bring the entire family to Egypt so they could survive the famine in safety and comfort. He provided wagons for the move. He promised them the best of the land of Egypt.

Pharaoh’s warm welcome of Joseph’s brothers reveals an important detail about Joseph’s time in Egypt.

“What Pharaoh Heard”
Commentary on Torah Portion Vayigash
First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ)

This commentary from FFOZ comes with the following “Thought for the Week:”

When we are wronged by someone, it is natural to tell others about it. We want to tell others about how it happened to garner their sympathy and support. Somehow it makes us feel better to know that others are aware of the injustice committed against us. We seek out sympathy and commit a small act of retaliation.

It’s very human that when we feel we’ve been wronged by someone, to want to get even in some way. Usually, we get even by doing the same to them as we believe they’ve done to us (whether the damage the other person has done to us is real of just perceived makes no difference apparently).

I write periodically on something called Lashon Hara or the Jewish concept of wronging someone in speech (which can be spoken, written, or any other form of communication). I’ve even based the Comments Policy for this blog on that principle.

As the FFOZ commentator writes, what we say and how it is perceived can have hurtful and even dire consequences:

Joseph loved his brothers and his family so much that he could not bear the thought of having them defamed. He did not want Egyptians saying to one another, “Did you hear about the nasty thing that Joseph’s lowlife brothers did to him?” Joseph kept the entire episode to himself. The only thing he ever said about his past was the vague explanation, “I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews” (Genesis 40:15). His love for his brothers compelled him to protect their reputation.

Instead of emulating Joseph, who was concerned about protecting the dignity of his loved ones, it seems we do just the opposite. A husband and wife are eating out at a restaurant when the husband drops his cup, spilling his beverage on the table. Embarrassed, the wife rolls her eyes and says to the stranger sitting at the next table, “He is such a klutz.” A man is out with his friends when they begin discussing the foils of marriage. All in good fun, the man complains to the guys about his wife’s bad habits. Everyone laughs. Why would we sell out the people we love like this? The wife shows more concern for the opinion of a stranger in a restaurant than she does for the dignity of her husband. The husband has higher regard for a few laughs from his buddies than he does for the reputation of his wife.

It’s one thing to read about a “Bible principle” and another thing entirely to behave out of that principle with unerring consistency. Reading about Joseph and his brothers makes a nice story, but most of the time, we don’t think to apply what we’ve learned to our day-to-day living. Reading the story of the wife casually defaming her husband in public brings the principle home. If anyone you’ve loved has embarrassed you in front of your friends, family, or strangers, even if what they said is true about you, then you know what I mean.

Here’s another example:

“The Torah ideal is to greet each and every person with a pleasant facial expression.” (Tomar Devorah, ch.2) When you greet someone in a friendly way, you never know what a positive effect you will have. A certain individual who greeted everyone with a smile and kind words was approached by someone and told, “You saved my life.” The person went on to tell how he’d suffered a number of serious setbacks and was contemplating suicide. He felt totally alone and depressed and felt that no one cared about him. Then this fellow greeted him with a sincere smile and a cheerful voice. This immediately lifted up his spirits and he was resolved to continue living.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Quoted from Gateway to Happiness, pg 26
Found at Aish.com

whispererI don’t know what Joseph felt about his brothers or why he didn’t “spill the beans” about their attempt to kill him to Pharaoh, King of Egypt, or anyone else in his sphere of Egyptian companions. Maybe he really did continue to have love for them in his heart, in spite of how they felt about him. Perhaps he just didn’t want the Egyptians to harbor any more disdain for the Hebrews than they already did. Regardless of the reason, even though Joseph would have been telling the truth if he revealed the terrible acts of his brothers to Pharaoh, he chose not to do it, keeping the matter to himself, and even forgiving his brothers, though they hardly deserved it.

When a spouse says something to revealing about his or her “other half,” depending on what it is, the person being spoken of can at least feel embarrassed if not ashamed or humiliated. As we see from Rabbi Pliskin’s example, how we treat another person, even if it’s simply greeting a stranger with a smile, can make a tremendous impact.

There are more than enough “moral police officers” on the web and particularly in the blogosphere who choose to point accusing fingers at others rather than greeting them (virtually speaking) with a “smile.” Especially since we cannot actually face the people we address on the Internet, we have no idea what good or evil we are doing to them and how they will respond. Most of the time, all we know is that they remain silent or they “bark back” at us if we have insulted or embarrassed them in some way.

But like the man in Rabbi Pliskin’s commentary, we don’t know how far we can push someone, especially if they are already on an emotional brink. We can knock someone over or we can pull them back, just by how we speak to them or about them.

James, the brother of the Master, said (James 3:8) that the tongue is “a restless evil and full of deadly poison'” We have been given the gift of speech (and writing, and other forms of communication) to bless and not to curse. Paul said (1 Thessalonians 5:11) that believers should “encourage one another and build up one another”, and New Testament scholar and author Mark Nanos, in his book The Mystery of Romans said Paul expressed his heartfelt desire that believing Gentiles should support and encourage even the non-believing Jews in the synagogue, rather than denigrate them for being “weak” and “stumbling” in faith.

If it is true that we have a duty to support even unbelievers so that they should come to faith, then what we say and what we do becomes incredibly important. We can not only save someone’s life in this world by how we greet them, we can be an instrument to bless or curse their souls.

The FFOZ commentary for this week’s Torah portion ends this way:

A woman was having a hard time at the Messianic synagogue she attended in the southern United States. She was involved in a heated conflict with some other members. This went on for some time. Frustrated with her congregation, she told her unbelieving friend about the problems she was having. Eventually the leadership arbitrated the situation. She made peace with the people. Some time later, she invited her unbelieving friend to attend a service. Her friend said, “Are you crazy? After the way you talked about those people and that place, I wouldn’t set foot in there.”

Joseph never told the Egyptians about the incident with his brothers because it was none of their business. By maintaining discretion, he was protecting the name and reputation of God in Egypt. Had he told his sad story to everyone, the Egyptians would have had cause to say, “If that’s how the followers of your God behave, I want nothing to do with Him or your religion.”

FallingI’ve heard it said that “you can’t unring a bell.” Once you have said or done something harsh or hurtful to another human being, you can never take it back. Just imagine all of the regret buried within you for all of the things you’ve said and done to sin against other people and against God over the years.

Fortunately, God is in the business of forgiving, but it’s not certain that all of the people you and I have hurt in our lifetimes will be willing or able to forgive us. But while we can’t change the past, we can make a new future starting right now. Have a care what you say and what you do. Greet others with a smile. Withhold a harsh criticism, even if what you could say is factual. Consider that God loves even the sinner and the apostate.

You may never know whose life you may save by either speaking a good word or withholding one that is evil. One day we will all have to give an accounting for how we’ve lived our lives and every action we have committed. What will you say to the King when it’s your turn? Will you attempt to justify hurting others, or be blessed by him for your kindness and compassion?

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The Problem with Religious People, Part 2

rick-warrenIn the aftermath of the tragic suicide of Rick and Kay Warren’s son Matthew, another tragedy is occurring: So-called followers of Jesus are using Matthew’s death as an occasion to attack Pastor Warren. This is sick, ugly, and sadly, indicative of the state of the body today.

It’s one thing for non-believers to make ridiculous statements like, “your son died due to your anti-gay hate toward gay people including your son” (as if there was even evidence that Matthew was gay, or as if he was not greatly loved by his mother and father, which he clearly was). It’s another thing when believers take this occasion to bash Rick Warren’s supposed theological errors, as if this was some kind of divine payback for his alleged sins. What kind of garbage is this?

-Dr. Michael L. Brown
“Enough with the Mean-Spirited Words Against Rick Warren (And Others)!”
CharismaNews.com

Yesterday, I read about the tragic suicide of well-known author and Pastor Rick Warren’s son Matthew. I have three adult children about the same age as Matthew and I can’t imagine any pain worse than facing the death of any of my children. Words cannot express the agony that Rick and Kay Warren must be enduring at this time, especially because they are people who are in the public eye. Whatever they experience, including heartrending grief, the world media watches them.

Imagine my surprise at reading Michael Brown’s article (I don’t usually read the source website, but I followed the link from Facebook), from which I quoted above, about how not only secular people are mistreating the Warren’s over the death of their son, but other Christians as well.

Really?

I know that Pastor Warren is a target for a number of reasons. Sometimes all it takes is just saying “I’m a Christian” in public. Some people, including many Christians, are critical of MegaChurches. Others, mainly secular folks, are critical of Warren for what they perceive as his “anti-gay” stance. Some of his critics have gone so far as to claim that Pastor Warren’s son Matthew was gay (which has not been substantiated to the best of my knowledge) and that it was Rick Warren’s disapproval of that “fact” which resulted in Matthew’s suicide.

To give you some context, I followed a link from Brown’s article to twitchy.com, which collected a number of “tweets” people made on twitter regarding Matthew Warren’s suicide:

@GayPatriot: I would imagine. But if you’re gay and your dad is the biggest preacher in the country it could lead to mental health problems.

@boymv18: your son died due to your anti-gay hate toward gay people including your son..

@TheReallyRick: Son of Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren has committed suicide. Place your bets on when its discovered he was gay. #ReligionKills

@BlazePhoenix_: Trust me, I AM being as charitable as I can be about hateful bigoted Pastor Rick Warren’s obvious failure with his own son!

The beat goes on and you can visit the “twitchy” website to read the rest of the “commentary.” It’s not pretty. I periodically encounter atheists on the web and their usual stance is to accuse me of moral failings because I “need religion to be a good person.” The assumption is that it’s better to be a good person based on who you are rather than who you serve.

Uh huh. Color me unconvinced.

michael-brownAnyway, what about Christians criticizing Warren? Brown’s article didn’t quote any Christian criticism nor provide links to websites or blogs taking Pastor Warren to task, so I (briefly) tried to find a few. I didn’t do well at all. The two primary Christian sites I found writing on the topic were Christianity Today and Christian News. Both sites presented straightforward news articles without editorializing excessively, especially in any negative light. I looked at the comments on each site in response, and found that they were universally kind and compassionate.

From the Christianity Today blog:

Loretta: I am so very sad for this family and their great loss. The enemy of God’s people attacks us where he can hurt us the worst, in our families. I will pray for your family’s healing from the Lord. I trust that this young man knew the Lord as his personal Savior and that knowing that will bring the Warren family hope and comfort.

Barbara: I am so sorry, I know the battle, my daughter suffers from depression for many years and she has just turned 27yrs old. I pray everyday for her and others. why do they have to go through this, I am so sorry, I belive Jesus has him now and now he can work on him and bring him to the promise land, May Jesus bless you all .Barbara a mom.

Paul: This is very sad indeed. May the Warrens at this time experience abundant comfort and peace from our God and Father. And may the young man’s soul rest in peace. Amen!

The comments at Christian News were similar:

I am so sorry for your loss. My father committed suicide when I was 3 years old, I will spend my life wanting to help the broken hearted and show them our heavenly fathers love! My prayers are with the Warren family and friends. I pray the do not “what if” but say “what now God!” I love the Warrens for all that they as a pastor and family have given to us. I pray all of our words spoken to this family are filled with love and grace. We all mean well, listen and pray for them! Praying now!!
Mary Ann Moore, Sebastopol, CA

Linda Long: We are so sorry for the loss of your son. We also lost our son to suicide. It’s a Pain that never goes away, but we have an amazing God that will give you all the strength you need to get through this difficult time. Our prayers and thoughts are with you and family. God bless you!

If there is Christian criticism against the Warrens in relation to the death of their son, I can’t find any. That’s probably good, because I periodically have problems with religious people and even sometimes lose my faith in religious people ever having the ability to truly follow the will of God.

Atheists are expected to be mean-spirited and cruel (not that all of them are) but Christians are to aspire to a higher standard. More’s the pity when we don’t.

However, Brown’s focus wasn’t on Rick Warren who, as I said before, is an easy target for a variety of reasons. His focus was on mean-spirited Christians and how we are exceptionally poor witnesses to the world around us when we are unkind and inconsiderate.

Interestingly enough, in Bible study last Sunday, we studied 1 Peter 2 which includes instructions on how to be good examples and good witnesses for Christ in a pagan world:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

1 Peter 2:11-12

failureIf there are Christians who are publicly criticizing Pastor Rick Warren and his wife Kay for any reason at this difficult time in their lives, you should be ashamed of yourselves. If there are Christians specifically criticizing the Warrens for somehow participating or causing their son’s suicide, again, you should be ashamed. Whatever differences you may think you have with the Warrens or however you may feel about Pastor Warren’s theology, doctrine, or the nature and character of his church, does any of that really matter right now? If someone is grieving…if anyone is grieving, isn’t it our responsibility to show comfort and compassion in the name of Christ?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

John 13:34

The implication is that we should love each other, not just in a “warm and fuzzy feeling” way, but with the same sort of love that Messiah loves us…love that’s self-sacrificing…loving someone enough that you would die for them if you had to.

Brown finishes his article with this:

Sadly, it is not just active Christians who frequent Christian websites. There are plenty of former-believers and outright non-believers who visit them too, and all too often, our inability to be civil in the midst of our disagreements, our extreme willingness to identify fellow-believers as false prophets and false teachers, our self-assumed right to judge the motivation of people’s hearts, and our utter violation of Jesus’ command to love one another as he loved us simply demonstrates to the world that our gospel is not true.

May this be the day we search our hearts, determining to watch our words, repent of our sins, and glorify the Lord with everything we write and say. Surely he deserves nothing less than this.

And remember: The world is watching.

The world is watching. We can choose to either sanctify the Name of God or desecrate it. Our choice, and by our choice, people will make decisions for or against God.

And also remember it’s not just people who are watching. God watches as well.