We're talking about how we love one another within the walls of our churches, and this is important because it's how we love one another, first and foremost, that shows how we love our God. Yesterday, we started looking at how our response to the very same need in our church might be different, but...why is that the case?
And really, I think that part of it is simply that we're trying to protect ourselves from what today's world calls "compassion fatigue."
If we take a meal to every single person or family who is going through a hard time, if we mail cards to every person who ever shows up on the prayer list, if we give financially to everyone who is struggling with making ends meet...at what point do we ourselves become weary souls?
We are, and have been since the fall, self-centered persons. Our culture (outside the church) has made this even worse. We have questions about how we're supposed to take care of our own needs. We have built into our hearts a priority of caring for us first. We've even been applauded for this. And this commitment to self runs so deep that it doesn't take long for most of us to start to feel resentful when someone else needs our resources - our time, our money, our compassion, whatever.
So what we have is a people, even inside the church, who might take a meal and mail a card and contribute financially, but it's a very short rope before we're like hey, how come no one is sending me a card? How come no one is bringing me a meal? How come no one is helping to shoulder my debts?
And then, we become resentful. We give and we give and we give, but who is ever giving to us? It can feel like a real soul-suck. Like we're being drained and running on empty.
We feel like maybe we're being taken advantage of.
To some degree, this has always been a problem in the people of God. Like I said, we've been self-centered for a long time. But if we look back at the New Testament, we see that 1) the problem wasn't always as bad as it is today, in a culture that affirms our self-centeredness so boldly and 2) it's not how we're supposed to be.
Part of our one anothering is shouldering each others' burdens. Part of our one anothering is giving freely to meet the needs of those we fellowship with. Part of our one anothering is putting aside our self and not being so self-centered. Or rather, at all self-centered.
And the truth is that if we were Christ-centered, we'd have no room left to be self-centered.
The early church was eager to give to the needs of others. They were eager to contribute to the work that the Lord was doing among them. They were excited about the opportunity to be part of something bigger than themselves.
Never are we given a story about someone who gave and didn't have enough left for themselves. That's not how we're called to give. Never are we given a story of someone who gave and resented it. Or resented the recipient. Never do we get any sense that anyone in the early church felt like they were being taken advantage of. Never do we sense in the Bible any inkling of "compassion fatigue."
The problem isn't compassion fatigue; it's us. Something in our hearts has changed over the past two thousand years.
The question now is, what are we going to do about it?