Headlining the "H" word is a trip wire in this culture, and I want to exercise a measure of sensitivity in putting it out there. Legalists can argue that the "H" word applies to all of us to some degree, mere humans being transformed into the image of Christ. You know, the filthy rags thing. Still, there is a note about the "H" word we'd better learn.
The world imposes an imprint of selective care on those of us who function in it, which is most of us. Believers aren't cloistered from the self-absorbed mannerisms of culture but must move in and out of that operating system in schools, work, social environments, civic involvements, athletics, traffic patterns, and daily life. This new world isn't totally estranged from the niceties and customs that made the nation great, but almost. In this world care and common decency are often conditioned by new codes of conduct that are selective. Let me list a few----
1. Our biases and preferences have created population subsets that are racially,
socially, economically, or class placement governed.
2. In many situations our actions toward others are dictated by the special needs
evident in their lives. As a result, we teach categories of responsiveness---how to
care for toxic people, unsafe people, loud people, indecisive people, close people,
distant people, type A people, alpha males, submissive people, and every other
distinction in the new thesaurus of human uniqueness. Fully functioning people
often slip through the cracks.
3. There's the scorecard thing too, the belief that many people just don't deserve our
compassion and care. It's quid pro quo American style, giving each other what we
think they've earned. it's not a standard scorecard either. It's individual, devised and
scored by me, myself, and I.
4. Believers often segregate benevolence and compassionate responsiveness to
people based on their spiritual standing. We're guided to a great degree by the "one
another" instructions in the New Testament, aiming our care to fellow believers.
Raising the bar on our concern for "one another" is certainly a valid distinction and
application of our resources. But, turning a cold shoulder to the needs around us
cannot be a proper interpretation of Christ's teaching or other biblcial instruction
regarding our influence in the unbelieving world. This element of selective care
reinforces the internalization of Christ's church in this culture.
5. The intrusion of big government into avenues of care traditionally adopted by the
Christian community further influences the way the church touches human lives in
this new world. Being intimidated by government programs and officials is now a
norm. Churches and church people are often reluctant to exercise care beyond their
walls or outside their denominational parameters.
Lately I've been impressed by the use of the word "everyone" in Scripture. Here are a few-----
Give to everyone who begs from you.
Luke 6:30, ESV
Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please
everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that
they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:32-33, ESV
But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning
or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would
commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.
2 Corinthians 4:2, ESV
So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those
who are of the household of faith.
Galatians 6:10, ESV
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.
Philippians 4:5, ESV
See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another
and to everyone.
1 Thessalonians 5:15, ESV
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach.
2 Timothy 2:24, ESV
1 Peter 2:17, ESV
The hypocrisy of selective care is that we simply leave aside the biblical guidance about our treatment of everyone. There is a consistency in the way our Lord and the great leaders of the early church expressed their faith to others. They didn't narrow their focus by the fickle trends of a changing culture. Yes, there was an expectation about Christian responsiveness to one another. Yes, there were warnings about being separated from false teachers and being wise about wolves in sheep's clothes. But, there was a concept of everyone in their extension of behavior to the world around them. They spoke it and wrote it.
Everyone is our circle of influence.