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Leave Me Alone!

I came across an article not long ago that was authored by Luther Brown. I don’t know Mr. Brown, and only know what he says in the article about his background. But I did find several of the points he made to be interesting. Here is one of those points:

“Christians evangelicals and fundamentalists in particular – seem to believe it is their God-assigned duty to interject themselves between man and his God. They seem not to trust that God has given all of us brains and judgment and other qualities that allow us to make decisions for ourselves, using criteria that we (not they) develop and live by. So whenever one of the more inspired among them encounters a person who is having trouble of one kind or another, they immediately begin an insult-laden proselytizing: “You need to go to church,” they say, or “You need Jesus” or “You need to pray.” What is both arrogant and insulting about this is the underlying assumption that the person to whom they are speaking has never considered these possible solutions to their problem, and more importantly, the assumption is that they have never tried them either. Even further is the assumption that their particular market brand religion is the only “true” one.”

While I don’t see much of anything that Mr. Brown discusses the same way he sees it, I admire his candor, and his ability to express himself clearly. Some months ago, in a Facebook exchange with a man whose family I have known and respected for 3 generations finally asked me to please just “Leave me alone!”. This fellow, a professing Christian, has been posting things like “I’m tired tonight”, “work sucks”, and “I’ve decided I don’t like pink” on Facebook for many months. He is college graduate (history major, I believe, from a Midwestern Bible college) and seems to have done nothing with his life. I repeatedly responded to his posts with little chides that were directed at getting him to look beyond his next meal (this guy – to put it kindly – has completely lost control of his weight), and his tickets for the next Brewers game, to focus on issues and circumstances of more importance. I tried repeatedly to draw him into more meaningful discussions – anything with substance, really. No luck. When he did spew something out about some celebrity on radio or TV (also a very important thing in his life), he would refer to people he disliked in very unkind – and not terribly Christ-like ways. Finally, he became so angry with me that he “unfriended” me on Facebook (along with everyone else in my family, although they weren’t involved in the discussions at all), and told me to just “Leave me alone!” His behavior remains the same. At 50 years old, he has done little with his life, and clearly plans to continue to focus on entertainment, food, and complaining about everyone and everything else for his remaining years. His objective seems to be to squander every gift that God has given him, and that is his choice to make. It’s just a shame, and I have to believe, an affront to his Creator.

Over the years, I have seen many friends and family members make decisions that were clearly (to me and to most others who knew them) profoundly bad ones. Selected poor choices in spouses, decided to start or continue smoking, and the list goes on. Were these their decisions to make? Absolutely. But even when the people involved are your own children, at some point they are old enough to make their own decisions, and parental influence wanes. When they are not your children, chances are very good that you have limited ability to influence them at all. So what do you do? In many cases, we just give up and allow them to “crash and burn”. We just “Leave them alone!” How many times have you seen this in your lifetime? I have seen it a lot.

Colossians 3:16, Romans 15:14, and 2 Thessalonians 3:15 all tell us that if we are doing our job as Christians, we have a responsibility to admonish one another to try to help each other achieve a closer relationship with God, and become more valuable instruments in God’s hands. Still, following this advice will almost certainly cause Christians to be described as “getting on their high horse”, being “holier than thou”, and so on. It is almost always an unpleasant experience for both the admonisher and the admonishee (is admonishee a word?), and the more direct you are the more despised you are likely to be. Let’s face it, all of us hate to be admonished, corrected, and offered unsolicited advice. It feels a little like you’re not a grownup, and still need your parents to tell you what to do. And in the end, every Christian (every adult, actually) should make his or her own decisions because ultimately they bear the legal and moral responsibility for them. But it does seem clear that since God has instructed Christians to admonish and receive admonition from one another, our unwillingness to do so constitutes disobedience to God. Rarely does God direct us to do only things that are pleasant!

Every situation is different, of course. Some of the poor decisions that Christians make have no long-term consequences other than their own physical discomfort, financial security, or personal reputation. Other decisions have wider spread and more profound impacts. So there is always a kind of risk / reward analysis involved in deciding whether to “get involved”, and in most cases I believe that most of us decide to just stay out of things that “aren’t any of our business”. It’s certainly the path of least resistance, and it will result in a lot more Facebook (and real world) “friends”. But is it the biblical thing to do? No, it is not. The Bible never says: “Look at the situation. Is it important enough to even mention? If you think you really have a shot at helping this person, then speak very kindly to him, and you may be able to get him to adjust his thinking – but be careful not to offend him!” No, those are the kinds of things we say to ourselves and to one another because we uncertain in our convictions, and because it gives us a comparatively easy way out when we see something going wrong in the life of a fellow Christian. But – hey – that’s exactly what I do most of the time; How about you?

What do you think?

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