It’s Just Not That Simple

There are times when the railings on the various sides of the political square are all claiming the moral and ethical high ground. Once again the shouting matches between differing perspectives find me standing somewhere in the middle wanting simply to remind us all…it’s just not that simple.

I have been a pastor for more than 16 years now. As such, I am called to be an example to the people I serve and lead in all aspects of life and faith. Because I am the one whose office is in the church building, I am faced most often with people coming along looking for help.

I want to help them all – even the ones who I’m pretty sure are just making their living by manipulating the compassion of folks like me that take seriously the commands of Scripture to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless and so on. But the reality is that I can’t help them all. I simply have no means to do so.

At the same time, the means that I do have that are not actually mine require, upon my own honor, that I be a wise and faithful steward of those means. That is a tension that I struggle to manage between the responsibility to give and serve and the responsibility to use well what has been placed in my care.

But I am also a husband and father. And in that role I also find a tension to manage. It’s easy to sit in my study and pray with and serve and teach a man who is trying to break free from the slavery to his sexual appetites. But it’s another thing to invite him to live in my home and share a room with my sons.

I have a responsibility to serve that man in whatever way I am able. But I also have my first responsibility to provide for the safety of my family. They are both biblical mandates. You see, it’s just not that simple.

I believe in the power of God’s grace lived out in the lives of God’s people. I believe in love and forgiveness. I also believe that, as a leader, as a pastor, as a husband and father, I have a duty to care for those for whom I am absolutely responsible.

There is grace in welcoming with open arms the man just released from prison after stealing from his employer. There is wisdom in not making him the church treasurer.

There is grace in loving and receiving the man who has molested children. There is wisdom in not allowing him to serve in the children’s ministry.

The Scriptures teach me, “But if anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:17)

The Scriptures also teach me, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)

You see…it’s just not that simple.

In all of the moralizing absolutes that are bouncing around today, I nod in partial agreement with most. But I don’t know how to find the right way. In my life and ministry I have learned how utterly crucial it is to prayerfully seek the direction from the Holy Spirit. And that, my friends, is the only way I see to find our way.

To those who say we have a moral and even biblical responsibility to take in those displaced by the ravages of war… you’re right.

And to those who say we have a moral and biblical responsibility to provide for the safety of our families… you’re right.

It’s just not that simple.

All I know to do is follow the mandate of the passage I have found myself coming back to time and time and time again for simple wisdom:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3.5-6

4 responses to “It’s Just Not That Simple”

  1. I appreciate you pointing out the tension here, although i am skeptical of the desire to stretch 1 Timothy 5:8 from providing for the physical needs of your family to protecting the nation with the same logic that led to internment camps in WW2. I fear that kind of family preservation takes a very specific scriptural mandate and turns it into the elastic clause, where we can avoid anything we want because of tertiary potential consequences. At a certain point, rejecting refugees becomes less like keeping a child molester out of VBS and more like keeping men away from it, because most sexual abusers are men. So, it is complicated, but the biblical witness in general is very much weighted for compassion over safety.

    The government has a Romans 12 responsibility to protect people from real danger, but Ezekiel 18 prevents us from holding everyone guilty for the sins of a few. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love believes all things and 1 Corinthians 6 tells us it is better to be wronged than to wrong. I think the balance of this is that the real terrorists are excluded and that we are willing to accept a small number of false positives to protect not only ourselves and our families, but the refugees we do accept. Beyond that, individual refugees are entitled to the benefit of the doubt. There is a non-zero risk in that, but there is no way around that when the enemy doesn’t wear uniforms.

    I appreciate your post, and will plug my own thoughts here:


    1. I do not disagree with your thoughts, nor do I intend to offer a solution beyond the urgency of seeking wisdom from the Lord. I think the core of the discussion is that we want to do or not do collectively what we were called to do individually – or so it seems to me. Thanks for your comments.


  2. It’s actually simpler than you think.

    You help people where they are.

    That guy needing help with his sexual appetite. Not only are you endangering your family, you are also doing him a disservice by placing him near his temptation.

    That’s the same problem here.

    You can look around the world, and throughout history, and as people from these culture groups move into an area, they attempt to change its laws to match their ideas. That’s a fundamental repeated pattern in history.

    I had a discussion earlier with someone who said, “But I’ve helped individuals like these refugees. They are innocent people who appreciate the help.”

    To which I responded.

    Yes, in a vacuum, in absence of others, an individual is easy to help. An individual is easy to pull up out of darkness. You get that immediate help and that immediate satisfaction for helping them.

    However, we aren’t taking in individuals, when you take in refugees. You’re taking in cultures. And with those cultures, means taking in all of those cultures’ problems.

    Whenever large amount of immigrants have moved here in the past, they didn’t have good access to opportunities, they were under policed. They took their crime and social problems with them. It took a great period of time for these influxes of immigrants to adjust.

    However, there’s a sufficient amount of people from this area of the world that never adjust. They form pocket communities and protest to have allowance to practice their laws. And when any country resists, it become politically or even physically violent. See southeastern Asian island countries for that evidence.

    So, yes, isolated individuals that you help with immigration is no problem. This is why we have a slow immigration policy. However, influx of cultural immigration is not something you can handle just by having people promise to behave.


    The alternative: Help them where they are.

    Almost every missionary I’ve talked with or listened to says you go there and you help them where they are. They have to choose to abandon cultural behavior that restricts freedom and growth. And this help goes farther.

    It’s just a better solution.

    And if you look at Jesus ministry, God’s warnings of Cannanite culture, and the church planting of Peter and Paul. They went where people were. They didn’t ask Gentile Christians to immigrate to Jerusalem. They built churches there, they ministered to people there, they taught people there.


  3. […] Perhaps this argument will prove persuasive to some, but it shouldn’t to Christians. Didn’t God tell us to love our neighbor as ourselves, even at the risk of harm? Some will respond to this argument by saying we have an obligation to our loved ones first. They will argue from analogy, corrupting blogger Mike Peercy’s reasoning, that “There is grace in welcoming with open arms the man just released from prison after stealing f…  […]


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