The sad truth is that the church is really inconsistent in the way that she loves within her own walls. If you need proof of that, just look at the way that your church's resources are distributed - physical resources and spiritual resources.
Here's a place to start: how many persons have been on your prayer list lately? If your church is anything like my church, quite a few. And that's great that we pray for one another! We absolutely should. But how many of those prayer requests have you been asked to send cards to? How many have you been asked to help prepare food for?
Intended or not, this creates a hierarchy within the church - we pray for everyone, but we care for the select few.
I'm not sure what it is that makes us treat persons differently. There's part of me that wants to make this a noble thing, something where we understand someone's love language enough to know that cards might overwhelm them or food might take away the one thing they feel like they're still able to do for themselves. I would love it if our selectiveness in care was a reflection of our deep love for one another.
But the realist in me knows that it's not. The realist in me knows that we are picking and choosing who we care for based on a number of human factors, including simple preference. We like this person, so we will care for them. Or perhaps it's even worse than that - this person gives sacrificially in one of our ministries, so we should obviously care for this person.
In the past year, I have seen a few prayer requests come through my chain about car troubles. This is just an example, but it's very poignant on what I'm talking about. A few times, I have been asked to pray for the car troubles and repairs of families in the family of God. Once, I have been asked not only to pray, but to financially contribute for a sister who wrecked her car and could not afford a new one. Then recently, I was asked to financially contribute for a sister who bought more car than she could afford and was drowning in the payments/debt.
Now, the question is - how do we decide whose car we pray for and whose we replace? How do we decide whose debt we step up to pay off and whose we simply pray earnestly for?
Again, I'd like to say that it's a widows/orphans thing - that we offer more help to those who are more alone in this world, but given the lists that I'm looking at, that's simply not the case. We are equally praying for or paying for widows and orphans and...with what rhyme or reason?
Maybe we think it's based on need. Maybe some of those persons have more means than others, and so we're just trusting that they are able to provide for themselves. But...in my experience, that's not it, either. There are poor persons in our church that we will let drown, and there are wealthy persons that we will shower with love.
There's no foundation for how we're deciding, it seems, except...preference. We are literally picking and choosing who we care for and how we care for them. Prayer for all, cards for a few, food for fewer still, and a little bit of money here and there. Based on...who we like? Who we hang out with?
I've noticed that we tend to help those very strong in their Christian faith, likely because they are the patriarchs and matriarchs of our congregations, and we are likely to help those very weak in their faith, likely because we are trying to build them up in the love of God. It's the persons in the middle who are least likely to receive the care of the church.
There are many who say, it has to be this way. We have to pick and choose which burdens we take on collectively to carry. We have to have some parameters around who and how we help. Why? Because if we don't....
Well, we'll talk about that tomorrow.