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encouragement invitation support Uncategorized

Embracing The Struggler

Neal Pollard

So much is said about the deficiencies of youth and young adults in our current culture. While every generation has its shortcomings, I have observed a hopeful trend. Perhaps it rests on the faulty foundations of political correctness and relativism, but young people today seem much more prone to accept and nurture those who have discernible difficulties like handicaps, mental or physical challenges, or social limitations.

Another way it shows up, specifically in the church, is the way they rally around those who are spiritually broken or in need. When a teenager or young adult responds to the invitation, watch how their peers flock to their side to show their support. This beautiful, tangible act is reflective of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and it is a trait that the father so wanted from the older brother (cf. Luke 15:20,31-32). It looks a lot like the tender goodbye between Paul and the elders in Acts 20:37.

This willingness to reach out and comfort one another is a supremely biblical way of interacting within the family of God. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you are also doing.”  God calls His people to have that kind of nurturing spirit. When we see those who are physically hurting, we should respond (Mat. 25:35-36; 1 Jn. 3:17). When we see those who are emotionally hurting, we should respond (Rom. 12:15). When we see those who are spiritually hurting, we should respond (Gal. 6:1-2; Jas. 5:19-20). The response should be more than token and certainly should not be heartless and surface. It should not be shown with favoritism, but to everyone who is in need of it.

This warm and loving response may not come as naturally to some of us who are older, but oh how crucial it is that we stretch ourselves to do it. Embracing a sinner does not mean embracing a sin. Let us discipline ourselves to see the difference. Hear the words of the Hebrews 12:12-13: “Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”

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Baltimore Orioles baseball Christianity encouragement support

No Fans?

Neal Pollard

Baltimore was the host of history yesterday.  Never, in nearly 150 years of professional baseball in America, has a regular season baseball game between two Major League teams been closed to the public.  I estimated the crowd inside Camden Yard to have been exactly zero fans in the stands, breaking Baltimore’s old record-low attendance of 655 on August 17, 1972, also against the White Sox.  There were fans behind the stadium gates in left-field and a small group gathered on the balcony of the Baltimore Hilton yesterday who could somewhat see the action, but their reaction as the home team won was muffled and faint as far as the players were concerned. The game was played this way because of the ongoing Baltimore riots, for the safety of fans and players.  The latter, when interviewed, talked about how eery and bizarre it was to play a game in front of no fans.

While we could chase the political and cultural rabbits stirred by the fact of those teams playing that game yesterday, let’s think about the players.  How hard is it to concentrate when you are on the field and can hear the sportswriters typing or the two scouts in the stands talking?  What’s it like to have success at the plate or on the mound and the appreciation be the deafening silence of the empty seats?  These guys make a whole lot of money, but, as Chris Davis said after the game, “When you’re rounding the bases, and the only cheers you hear were from outside the stadium, it’s a weird feeling. I’ll take any home run I can get at any time I can get it, but it’s definitely more fun when there are fans in the stands” (info via Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun online, 4/30/15, and baseball-almanac.com).  I think any of us could imagine how surreal and distracting that would be.

We are not running the Christian race to glorify self, for earthly accolades and recognition.  In fact, Jesus condemns such an approach to religion in Matthew six.  Yet, God knows how we are made, that we thrive on encouragement.  He tells wavering saints in Hebrews about the “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us” (12:1).  He mentions the crowd in the midst of the metaphor of running the race. While we cannot hear or see those referenced there, we can be audible and visible support for each other—strengthening weak hands, feeble knees, and heal others (12:12-13).  We must cheer each other on and “encourage one another and build up one another” (1 Thess. 5:11).  The world will not applaud us for standing up for what’s right and living the way God instructs. But, we have each other.  It’s not the size of the crowd, but the vociferousness of the cheering, that will make the difference.  Let’s be fans of one another, today and every day.