Caught in the Web

Welcome to another Wednesday and another chapter of the continuing discussion about The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns. Even if you haven’t read the book, please still feel free to hang out, read today’s post, and join the discussion. If you’ve written a post about this chapter, please link it up at the link widget below. And please make absolutely sure to visit my friend and co-facilitator, Jason Stasyszen, at Connecting to Impact to see his thoughts on this chapter.

And now, Chapter 11 – Caught in the Web

I’m not sure if it’s just a trait of church folks or of all humankind, but we really like everything to be simple. Especially our problems. We want life to present us with clear-cut problems so that we can present them with a quick, formulaic solution. And I’ll go ahead and confess that this is true of me. No muss. No fuss. No pain or scrapes or dents or tears. Just show me the problem and its simple solution, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, life doesn’t really work this way. And neither does poverty.

“Poverty is extremely complex. Picture the poor caught in a spiderweb of interwoven causes that trap them hopelessly while the marauding spiders of hunger, war, disease, ignorance, injustice, natural disasters, and exploitation prey upon them unrestrained. While there are solutions to poverty—ways to free them from the web—there are no simple solutions.” (Stearns, 125)

We Christians—especially those of us who have a little social justice activism in us—love to get folks saved and then tell them how to live a holy life. But what about when those folks are real folks—complicated folks—with real, complicated problems?

What about the newly Christian woman sitting knee-to-knee with me in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who tells me that she’s a widowed mother of three with no home, no income, and no food for her kids? There’s no Social Services to send her to. There’s no WIC or welfare system there. Most of the churches there have no walls or roofs and don’t have money to pay their pastors’ salaries—much less to give handouts. In that country, you either find a way to live, or you die. That’s the bottom line. And so, when she asks, with tears in her eyes, if God will still love her if she continues to sell her body to feed her children, will I really be so calloused and heartless as to judge her? With this complicated problem, what’s the simple answer?

You may be thinking, “Did Sarah just say that prostitution is okay?” Or “Did Sarah just say that it’s okay to sin as long as your excuse is good enough?” Neither of those is what I’m saying here. What I’m saying is that before we focus on problems and solutions, we must focus on the person. On their distinctive needs and situations. Until we focus on the person, we will never let them into our hearts enough to be able to have God’s heart for them. And only when we have God’s heart for them can we even begin to find the complicated answers to their complicated problems.

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  1. Reminds me of a story I heard about missionaries who told a chief that polygamy was wrong so he got rid of his other wives and kept his favorite. Only problem was that the now all these women could do after being put out was to become prostitutes. It’s all that culture allowed for them. It can all seem really simple to us in our culture and then it’s not elsewhere. I think you hit the nail on the head: individuals. It’s the same conclusion I came to in my post (with a few more words). Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about it.

    Thanks Sarah. Really a great post. I think we need to understand it’s not as black and white as we sometimes think it should be. And there’s a lot to do in the trenches.

  2. Agree with you here Sarah. The fundamental problem (among others) with politics and politicians and other thinking that they can change things by changing the system or laws or whatever, is that until the person’s heart is changed NOTHING IS GOING TO CHANGE! Good thoughts on this chapter.

  3. Sarah Salter says:

    Jason- I’ve heard that example before, actually. And I think it’s a great example of what we’re talking about here… Now I’ve gotta go read your post and agree with you there, too! 🙂

    Bill- That’s a great point! The system or the law can dictate to us whatever they want to and it still won’t make our hearts change. Lincoln freed the slaves in the 1860’s but it was a hundred years or more until a lot of the laws really changed. And even once the laws changed, there are still people to this day whose hearts are filled with hate and malice toward African-Americans. (That’s just the first example that came to mind…) Thanks for your input, Bill! And thanks for participating!

  4. I think we are all coming to the same point… Love is more than throwing band-aids at the superficial. Love demands relationship and understanding. Love requires elevating the other above ourselves. Love meets people where they are without condemnation but with grace, mercy, and forgiveness. Love cares and nurtures. Love lifts up. Love empowers. Love gives bloom to hope.

    The world needs our sincere love that flows from the well of God’s love within us.

  5. Sarah Salter says:

    Dusty, you’re right. We are all making the same point. And believe me, we’re going to be tested for it and held accountable for it. (I just felt a tinge of fear. But I think that’s good, too.) I love your description of love here, too. 🙂

  6. That’s the beauty of the Gospel…He came to give more life abundant life…we need to followHis example. beautiful reminder sista!

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