Missing the Problem While Disagreeing on the Solution, Part 2

While ultimate peace and unity can only be found in Jesus Christ, the church is still called to help.  The passage below may emphasize serving other believers, but “do good to all people” is pretty encompassing.

So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.
Galatians 6:10 NASB

Helping those who are suffering (whether they are sick, hurt, demon-possessed, or poor) seems to be a key part of God’s mission and nature, throughout history.

He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
Psalms 147:3 NASB

(See also Psalm 147:2-6, Ezekiel 34:11-16, and the entire gospel account of Jesus’ ministry.)

I would also suggest that, even if we know that social, community, and governmental support can only go so far, these organizations can at least contribute.  If followers of Jesus can help to organize good societies, neighborhoods, and countries, God can be glorified in those, as well.

What do we do, though, when someone else tries to solve a real issue, but their approach is different from the one that we would have chosen?  Maybe we want to only pray (not because it is powerful, but because it is private) while we see others getting directly involved in making a change.  Maybe we are the kind of person that wants to get out there and reach people face-to-face, and don’t understand why other believers are only giving money (rather than their time and service) to ministries.  Maybe we see a foreign government oppressing its people and want to see it overthrown militarily, but a fellow Christian insists that diplomatic overtures can achieve the same goals peacefully.

I don’t think that there’s a simple answer, here, but let’s go back to my manager’s question from yesterday’s article: If you disagree with someone’s methods, why do you disagree with it?

  • Does the method offend you so much that it blinds you to your own responsibility?  (That’s a risk that I personally face.)
  • Is refuting the action easier than talking about the problem that it is meant to solve?  (That was probably the case with the aforementioned video.)
  • Would getting riled up about side issues make it more comfortable to just ignore the discomfort of the underlying issue itself?  (I know that I like to be comfortable!)
  • Do you tell yourself that since you aren’t really causing the problem, you are justified in criticizing those who are trying to fix it?  (This may sound like a stretch, but I’ve been convicted of doing this, myself.)

Having a better solution to address a latent or obvious issue in society – or the church – is perfectly OK (more on that in a moment).  However, when we dismiss the underlying problem because the methods used (whether by others in the church, or those who aren’t trying to follow Jesus) don’t match our own, perhaps we have missed the point.  When we deny people’s physical, mental, and emotional needs – both as individuals and as a group of like-minded people – because someone else is trying to help them in a different way than we agree with, we may become useless (when we aren’t doing anything to be part of a solution), but worse than that, we probably deter others from solving problems in God-honoring ways.

Just as I didn’t necessarily mean to take away from the purpose of the training video with my comments about the delivery of the message, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with suggesting that a given method is not ideal for a given time and place.  For instance, if a nearby family is hungry, and you have enough to share, there’s no immediate need for you to campaign for an overhaul of our welfare system so that the government will provide food to them.  You can put down the phone (at least for the present), and just feed your neighbor!  Once you’ve done that, we can certainly talk about the government’s role in providing help like that, and seek help for a larger population that needs it.  But, if you start by trying to change the system, by the time you effect change in your government, your neighbor is going to be a lot hungrier.

Wise and loving counsel, from one Christian to another, is appropriate to help us collectively use the right techniques for each situation.  When we are strategic and tactical, with God’s direction, I know that the church can continue to change the world.  On the other hand, when we follow whatever this fickle world suggests for the moment, without first understanding what God is saying, we’re just as likely to hurt as to help.  When we do what we want, rather than what God wants, we may as well be pulling in the wrong direction in a tug-of-war game (or scoring a goal for the wrong team).

These principles even apply when we see someone clearly acting at the “extremes” (described in yesterday’s article).  If someone is doing absolutely nothing for an issue that you are passionate about (and which God cares about, based on His Word), or if they are violently destroying things in a way that doesn’t help the actual people who are suffering, we still have the same obligations.  First, we must make sure that we understand and focus on the underlying problems where God is calling us to serve.  And, we should guide and counsel others towards the most God-honoring approach to address them.

Just because someone’s expression of (or protest against) a problem differs from yours, or even offends you, don’t let that cause you to miss out on the underlying problem they are calling attention to.  If you disagree with someone’s methods, study carefully the problem they believe that they are fixing.  If you find it to be a real need, where God would want His people to step up, then redouble your own efforts to help (albeit in a different way), and consider inviting your well-meaning [but potentially misguided] brothers and sisters to join you in addressing the problem in a way that can be more effective.


Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation.

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