I recently received an email from Doug Nichols, International Director of Action International Ministries. As I read what Doug wrote, I was reminded of numerous times when I have seen women, older people and handicapped people treated in the inconsiderate and selfish way that the women of whom Doug writes were treated. Some of what is occurring may be due to ignorance or lack of thoughtfulness, but I think as Brother Nichols suggests, the problem usually goes much deeper than that – it reveals a heart problem wherein self interest and an endemic bent to seek our own comfort and pleasure reigns supreme.
And, unfortunately, the problem Brother Nichols describes is prevalent among professing Christians as well as among those who make no profression of faith. We might expect unbelievers to be selfish and disrespectful and inconsiderate, but such should not be the case with those who are called to be followers of the One who came not to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). Such should not be the case of those who are called to “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than “themselves’” (Philippians 2:3). Rather, it should be a characteristic of all of us who call Christ Lord that we “do not merely look out for ‘our’ own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
What Doug wrote resonated with me for the reason I have already mentioned, but even more importantly, because it has broader and deeper implications in terms of why Christians fail to fulfill many of the commands of Christ about evangelism, missions and ministry to the poor and disadvantaged people of our world.
Now here is the portion of Doug’s email that stimulated me to write this blog. I encourage you to think about what he wrote and consider how it may apply to you and to your church.
“NO SEATS! This morning on the airport bus from a Chicago suburb to O’Hare
the bus was more than full. On the over one hour trip I stood as well as
three women. There were many young men sitting as well as children with
parents. No one offered his/her seat to the women. This attitude of “my
comfort and me first” might also be in the church. We teach by our actions
that our personal and family concerns are most important and do not think of
others around us, so why do we think our family and friends will have
compassion for the needs of the gospel to the orphan, widows, street
children, and the poor of the world.” “So, as those who have been chosen of
God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness …” (Colossians
On a number of occasions I have been in meetings where there were more people in attendance than the main auditorium would hold. On those occasions, Christians were exhorted to be willing to sometimes give up their seats in the main meeting room and go to another room where they would watch and listen to the service as it was relayed to them electronically. This, of course, was suggested so that everyone would at least have some opportunity to be seated in the main auditorium. Interestingly, I have watched as people ignored the exhortations and pleas of the leaders of the conference and selfishly refused to yield to the interests of others. The idea seemed to be conveyed by a vast majority of the attendees was that “I do not and will not esteem others to be more important than myself. I am here to seek my own things and not the things of others. I will not sacrifice my own comfort or pleasure for the sake of others.”
Some may consider this kind of behavior to be trivial and unimportant and be tempted to say, “Why are you making such a big deal out of such a little thing?” My answer to this question is that I suspect that if we behave in this way on little issues such as this, we probably will behave in selfish and inconsiderate ways in other areas of life and ministry as well. How we handle the “no seat” issues of life may very well explain why we are remiss in really sacrificing time and comfort and finances and energy for the cause of Christ in world missions and mercy ministries.
What do you think?