Thanks for Nothing: Random Acts of Kindness and What Jesus Would Really Do

Over the past few months, I’ve been hearing about some self-confessing Christians doing, promoting and priding themselves for “random acts of kindness.” Have you heard about these things? It is when you “randomly” meet somebody on the street who is in dire need of physical provision — food, clothing, shelter, or God forbid, they think they need drugs and/or alcohol. And in a random “act of kindness” you decide to help out the homeless beggar.  Because after all, you are a disciple of Jesus Christ (I mean, “What would Jesus do?”!); you are simply trying to work out Matthew 25:40 in your life!–“as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Ok, maybe you don’t have that eschatological passage in mind when you get into a situation like this.  Maybe you simply (mis)use the passage for the sake of proof-texting for your “random” act of “kindness,” leaving out the point about judgment that Jesus was making. Whatever the case, out of kindness you don’t give him spare change, but instead go inside the coffee shop / burger joint / gas station to buy him some food and a drink.  However, because you’re in a tight schedule to get back to your pointless, eschatologically meaningless activities, you care for the homeless beggar and do what you think Jesus would have done — you feed him.

Give him change vs. give him food. And since in all likelihood the guy might buy drugs or booze if you gave him some money, you think the wisest thing, the kindest thing you could do is give him some food.

You refrain from having a genuine conversation with the (wo)man in need, seeking to get to know them on a more personal level so that you could better pray for him/her.   You neglect to tell them that in spite their dire physical need, they also have a greater spiritual need — one that if not provided for would lead them into an eternity in punishment for their sins. You don’t share with them the hope of the gospel — the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crushed for their iniquities — and it is only through trusting in his atoning sacrifice that we can be forgiven of our sins, made right with God and be reconciled to our Heavenly Father.   You do not call the beggar to come to faith in the One who truly sustains.

At the end of the day, if we only do these things I just mentioned, I am convinced that we have not performed a random “act of kindness.”  In and of itself, giving a neighbor a free burger or cup of coffee may be a kind act. But anybody could do that — even many unbelieving people I know. But there is nothing “kind” about only giving our neighbors a free burger or coffee if we also neglect this opportunity to give them everlasting hope (Matthew 28:18-20; cf.Acts 3:17ff).   It would be the complete opposite of “Your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”   The choice for those who have been born-again by the Spirit is not remedy physical need OR remedy spiritual need. No; the gospel compels us to do both.  For if we fail to proclaim the gospel at such Divinely-appointed opportunities, we may have helped our unregenerate neighbors survive for a few hours but we will have damned them for an eternity.

And that, brothers and sisters, would be the most unkind thing we could ever do to our neighbors.  This is not a random “act of kindness” at all.

*Edit: This Thanksgiving, let us not only do so-called random acts of kindness; let us purposefully share the gospel of grace.

The Heresy of “I don’t Know”

My friend Daniel Spratlin has been writing a series on The Heresy of Joel Osteen.

I thought it’d also be helpful for readers to read Joel Osteen’s words themselves in context.

Larry King Live interview with "Pastor" Joel Osteen on June 20, 2005:

KING: Is it hard to lead a Christian life?

OSTEEN: I don’t think it’s that hard. To me it’s fun. We have joy and happiness. Our family — I don’t feel like that at all. I’m not trying to follow a set of rules and stuff. I’m just living my life.

KING: But you have rules, don’t you?

OSTEEN: We do have rules. But the main rule to me is to honor God with your life. To life a life of integrity. Not be selfish. You know, help others. But that’s really the essence of the Christian faith.

KING: That we live in deeds?

OSTEEN: I don’t know. What do you mean by that?

KING: Because we’ve had ministers on who said, your record don’t count. You either believe in Christ or you don’t. If you believe in Christ, you are, you are going to heaven. And if you don’t no matter what you’ve done in your life, you ain’t.

OSTEEN: Yeah, I don’t know. There’s probably a balance between. I believe you have to know Christ. But I think that if you know Christ, if you’re a believer in God, you’re going to have some good works. I think it’s a cop-out to say I’m a Christian but I don’t ever do anything …

KING: What if you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t accept Christ at all?

OSTEEN: You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know

KING: If you believe you have to believe in Christ? They’re wrong, aren’t they?

OSTEEN: Well, I don’t know if I believe they’re wrong. I believe here’s what the Bible teaches and from the Christian faith this is what I believe. But I just think that only God with judge a person’s heart. I spent a lot of time in India with my father. I don’t know all about their religion. But I know they love God. And I don’t know. I’ve seen their sincerity. So I don’t know. I know for me, and what the Bible teaches, I want to have a relationship with Jesus.

[…]

KING: How about issues that the church has feelings about? Abortion? Same-sex marriages? Continue reading

The Reason for Our Hope

Tonight at Care Groups, we did something that we wouldn’t normally do. While having a lengthy discussion on this morning’s sermon on Galatians 1:1-5, evangelism and gospel proclamation, one of our members brought up the idea of immediately going out to share the gospel.

And so, with unanimous agreement, we went out to the U of L campus to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers.  It was a great experience that we all needed more of, to step out of our comfort zones, to step up to our own personal fears, and to tell people about the reason for our hope.

13 Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, 16 having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. (1 Peter 3:13-17)

Do pray for Torrence and Ryan — two sophomore students at U of L who desperately need the gospel of Jesus Christ to save them from their sin.

How does Marriage reflect Gospel proclamation?

I’ve never thought too much about the relationship between a rightly structured marriage and effective evangelism.  Thus, I was quite intrigued when I read the the Editor’s Note of the July/August 2008 eJournal by 9Marks:

Can a man with a good but wrongly structured marriage have a faithful evangelistic ministry? This question was posed to me recently. The answer seemed obvious—”Look, it may not be ideal, but if a person is out there sharing the gospel…”

I then presented the question to a pastor whom I respect tremendously. I was amazed when he said that he was unsure whether such a man could. His rationale: “A rightly ordered and healthy marriage is that close to the heart of the gospel, and an unhealthy marriage teaches a wrong gospel.”

Wow. I hadn’t thought about that. But it makes biblical sense, doesn’t it? Analogous perhaps to the gospel witness we might attach to caring for the poor (a popular topic, and easier to talk about)?

Consider one of the first consequences of the fall—the marriage of Adam and Eve is cursed with a distorted relationship (Gen. 3:16b). Consider also one of the best pictures of Christ’s redemption—marriage (Eph. 5:22-33). Consider Paul’s requirement that a pastor have a rightly ordered home before he thinks of leading the church (1 Tim. 3:4). A rightly ordered and healthy marriage displays or pictures the gospel. It’s a symbol or a type, like caring for the poor (2 Cor. 8:9).

As society moves further and further away from the biblical practice of marriage (think of the recent decision by the California Supreme Court to allow for homosexuals to marry), it will become that much more critical for rightly ordered and healthy Christian marriages to comprise the backdrop of gospel proclamation, again, like so many are saying about caring for the poor. Neither of these matters are the gospel, but both present a kind of picture of the gospel; both are powerfully redolent with the gospel’s love and forgiveness.

How crucial then for pastors to attend to their own marriages, as well as the marriages in their churches. This issue of the 9Marks eJournal on marriage hopes it can help our brother pastors do just that, if only in a small way.

–Jonathan Leeman

A Tale of Two Mikes

Yay, I talked to lost people today!

And it’s funny how that just rhymed 🙂 But it felt good to say that… unnervingly good, like I actually made a difference in the world today. Let me tell you the story, if you would bear with me…

During the dinner hour earlier tonight, I got to meet up again with a seminarian friend, blogger extraordinaire Tony Kummer, one of the the founders of Said At Southern. Brother Tony had the audacity to take me off campus for dinner and to fill my quota of evangelizing to lost people for my Personal Spiritual Disciplines class. Since I live on the Southern Seminary campus and do not have a car, it is very, very rare that I would have any opportunities to talk to lost people about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So tonight, I reluctantly agreed with Tony to get out of the Geneva that is Southern Seminary and into the rest of “the world”!

We arrived at this little burrito restaurant that was quite deserted for dinner. Seeking out lost people is quite difficult in a place that does not have people there! Trying to talk to the cashier at the restaurant was also difficult since he only spoke Spanish. And so, after dinner we walked down the street to the bus stop in search of somebody to share the Gospel with. By God’s blessing, we talked to two interesting people — both named Mike.
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