Would you give money to a person who has made life miserable for you?
The members of Sand Springs Baptist Church in Henderson County, Texas, recently did just that, contributing $400 for medical treatment to a gentleman who previously protested their public nativity scene display.
Patrick Greene is the atheist in need, and he’s suffering from an eye disease that may eventually leave him blind.
Jessica Crye organized the collection. “Why not turn this into something else?” she said. “This is a great opportunity to turn the other cheek and show God’s love.”
Giving to a person with whom we fundamentally disagree, and on such a critical matter (the existence of God), runs contrary to human nature. It’s always easier to help those with whom we see eye-to-eye (no pun intended), not to mention those who are likely to someday help us.
At the very least, we’re culturally trained to take care of our own. Remember the old adage, charity begins at home?
But such belief, however comfortable and convenient, just isn’t biblical.
During his brief ministry on earth, Jesus constantly challenged the conventional wisdom of the day, including who our “neighbor” really is. He shook people up when he told the story of the Good Samaritan, teaching that a hated foreigner was worthy of help (Luke 10:25-37). Christ’s directive in Matthew’s gospel was even more blunt:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighborand hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemiesand pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:43-48).
There are ramifications for attempting to live a biblical life. Some might consider you “soft” for engaging “the other side.” Others might label you naïve for contributing resources to a person who deliberately attempts to thwart the progression of the Gospel.
But if you can muster the courage and confidence to do so, you’ll be doing exactly what our Christian faith commands us to do. Keep in mind this philosophy and behavior extends well beyond the matter of financial or physical charity.
Should Christians be willing to kindly engage those who persecute us? How about those who champion abortion rights, advocate for the redefinition of marriage or take away our fundamental religious liberties?
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him,” wrote Paul, “if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Romans 12:20).
Because I believe those with whom we disagree are hungry for truth and thirsty for that which truly satiates, I will never grow tired of pursuing them.
Incidentally, I think the Scots have it right. They’ve slightly adjusted that old adage.
Yes, “Charity begins at home,” they agree — “but it shouldn’t end there.”