The Lost Art Of Sympathy

If you’ve been following my blog for even a small amount of time, you likely know a couple things about me.

I love Jesus and I love musicals.

I especially love how Biblical messages often show up in the storylines of musicals.

Yesterday I was driving from Wichita Falls back to my home in Vernon. I was listening to the Phantom of the Opera, which is a classic.

The final number, Down Once More, gets me emotional every time. This song humanizes the phantom. This song gives you sympathy for the phantom. The viewer doesn’t condone the murderous actions of the phantom, but you are able to briefly look past them and see the pain, the hurt, the brokenness that the phantom carried with him throughout his life.

As I got a lump in my throat from the final lyrics, I realized something.

We’ve lost that.

We’ve lost the art of sympathy.

Especially as Christians.

Anger and outrage, aggression and rudeness, boisterousness and vitriol. These are the fruits of the modern Christian.

We’ve stopped being willing to listen.

We only yell.

I urge you to ask the Lord to give you sympathy. Ask the Lord to give you the desire to understand where people are coming from, even if you disagree with them 100%.

Jesus was meek and gentle. He was not the macho American man. He absolutely spoke up and spoke out. But He did so to critique and convict the people of God and to draw them to Him. We’ve gotten a skewed view of his anger in the Gospels when we make them about condemnation as opposed to conviction. Those who didn’t turn, absolutely they stood condemned. But the call was to lead them to change.

Praise God for those who are calling the American church to change, to act, to move.

Let us do so in a way that leads to repentance, not hardened hearts.

Let us do so in a way that leads to conviction, not condemnation.

My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness. Therefore, ridding yourselves of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent, humbly receive the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. – James 1:19-21

This passage is a hard one for me to live out. I want to give my opinions. I want to criticize. I want to condemn. But human anger in me doesn’t produce anything good.

There is a place for righteous anger. That is super clear in Scripture. Where injustice is taking place, there is a Spirit-driven anger. But only that anger can produce so much change in the hearts of men. We must strive to differentiate between the two.

Evil is prevalent. We’ve all seen it firsthand as of late. Moral filth is prevalent. We must actively rid ourselves of sin through the power of the Spirit, and then get into Scripture. Scripture must inform us. Scripture must lead us. Scripture must guide us.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. . . Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:9-12, 16-18

This passage has informed so much of my behavior these last few months.

Politics.

Covid-19.

The church and social justice.

If you go back and read my posts on social media, I’ve sought to listen. To learn. I am not wise. I don’t have the answers. I want to be a man who loves well. Who lives in harmony. Who lives at peace.

You can absolutely condemn the horrid sin of racism, mourning with those who mourn, in a way that brings peace and harmony, in a way that doesn’t condemn every police officer around the country. You can absolutely look at violent riots and condemn sin in a way that brings peace and harmony, in a way that doesn’t condemn every protestor around the country.

We’ve lost the ability to sympathize. To try and understand.

I try and live in such a way where I condemn sin but welcome and love all, praying that God leads every one of us to repentance.

I have had to confess publicly from the pulpit at my church that there is racism in my heart. That’s me condemning sin. I am grateful for a community protest that I attended in Vernon that did just what that passage in Romans described. Racism was condemned but police across the board were not. Violent rioters were condemned but protestors across the board were not.

Brother and sister in Christ, listen.

Brother and sister in Christ, sympathize.

Enough with the arguments.

Statistics.

Opinions.

Listen.

Learn.

Disagree in love.

Condemn sin.

But love the sinner.

I have learned over the past few months that personal conversations are hugely important. I have sat across from people who disagreed with me on politics, and we left loving one another. I have sat across from people who have said all manner of things regarding Covid-19, and we left loving one another. I have sat across from people who disagree with me regarding Jesus and social justice (I have another post coming soonish), and we have left loving one another.

Before you condemn, reach out.

Before you condemn, have a conversation.

Before you condemn, pray.

Before you condemn, sympathize.

Let us as the people of God live in such a way that we condemn sin but welcome and love all. Those aren’t mutually exclusive.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

 

 

 

*the above photo is not my property*

Me, Myself, and I

“If we can just get through May.”

I’ve heard this refrain from many friends and peers recently, and I’ve even thought it and said it myself. May is a busy season. A time of endless graduation related responsibilities and end of the year awards banquets. It is full of solidifying family vacations for the summer. Many who were faithfully following resolutions for 2018 have seen themselves depart from their grandiose plans as they move from Hello Fresh planned meals to driving through Braums or Taco Casa. For the college student, finals weigh heavily on the mind. The pace of the end of the school year is relentless and hard to keep up with.

Friendships and relationships that were strong and tight but three months ago are now more distant as a result of the busyness of life, whether that is co-workers, friends, or family.

While there are definitely seasons of life that are busier than others and thus will naturally effect our relationships, I don’t believe that as followers of Christ we are to nonchalantly go along with this flow and not strive for community all the same.

While reading this evening, I came across Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, once can help the other up. But pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, a cord of three strands is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

This is a beautiful reminder of the necessity of community. As followers of Christ, we cannot do this alone. We need people to help us up (confession and repentance), keep us warm (encouragement and support), and prevent us from being broken (spiritual warfare). If we are not encouraging, praying for, and confessing to a select group of men or women in our church community, then we are missing out on so much of what it means to follow Christ. We were designed for community. Adam was in a perfect state and yet it was not good for him to be alone. In the midst of Genesis 3′ horrible turn of events, we see that God was in the practice of walking with Adam and Eve in the cool of the day. Eden was communal.

Yet way too often that cord of three strands is just me, myself, and I.

As the end of the school year has come, I have felt this need for community, for brotherhood, but have experienced the lack of it. This is just as much my fault as anybody’s as I have not taken all the active steps necessary to cultivate relationships that bring grace to those involved and glory to God.

I am neither a husband or a father (or wife or mother). There are daily responsibilities that are not on my shoulders that many of you reading this carry. I know there is an innocence and naivety there. That being said, I believe that God’s desire is to see His church genuinely and truly care for one another with love. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when it’s tough.

I am aware as well that we don’t live in an era where the Acts 2:46 version of church is possible (meeting every evening). That being said, I also don’t believe we live in an era where this idea of actually being the church to each other can’t be fought for.

Sometimes I feel like I was born in the wrong century because I loathe the family isolation that our culture is all about. You do you and I’ll do me. THAT’S NOT THE CHRISTIAN WAY. If I take the Lord’s Supper with you, that’s me saying that my family’s habits, struggles, and joys are your business. You have the right, even the calling, to call me out when I’m leading my family in sin, just as you should be rejoicing when we rejoice and mourning when we mourn. The Bible paints a picture of community that I rarely see in this day and age.

Forgive me for ranting, I’m passionate about that topic. It is my desire to lead my family (40 days till I’m married. That’s terrifying and exciting.) in a way that puts Christian community over the status quo of what you’re supposed to do in the US of A. Again, there are things that are required. I’m not saying ditch all the end of the year events. I am saying that God made you for community and when you’re throwing that aside for unceasing pragmatic programming, I think you’re missing out on so much.

Heaven will be idyllic. There will be no more nights of fast-food, no more relentless responsibilities. Too often we think once we’re there than we’ll embrace community. Yet in the Lord’s Prayer it says ‘on earth as it is in heaven’. We are to be a people formed by God to bring heaven down to earth. We are to be a people formed by God in such a way that our weekly habits and rhythms stand out. I’ve caught myself looking no different than the world when it comes to my isolation and the way that I spend my weeks. Being a Christian is about being different.

I say every word out of love and every word to myself more than anyone.

As a follower of Christ, slow down.

Speak with a friend. Confess, encourage, pray together.

Go for a walk.

I don’t want to wait ’till the end of May to walk in community, cause then the finish line will just keep getting extended (let us not forget as well that rest was woven into the fabric of creation, and when we don’t allow ourselves rest we are breaking a command of God).

Be different. Be in community.

In His Name,

Nate Roach

 

Letters Of Encouragement

Jamie was visiting this weekend, and as we prepared to leave my parents’ home in Wichita Falls, I came across a large manilla envelope with my name on it. I had no idea what it was or where it came from. Since it had my name on it though, I went ahead and opened it. stamps

Inside were dozens of letters. They all came from team members and coworkers from my summer in Salt Lake City back in 2014. It was weird, eye-opening, enlightening, encouraging, and a little confusing reading letters written to my former self. I pored over them, laughing at old memories, reminding myself of the ways that God moved in me and others that summer in Salt Lake City (I also remember that I selfishly chose not to write anyone else letters. Boo hiss 2014 me).

On my 16th birthday, my dad gave me a supremely special gift. As a present, he had a couple dozen men write me letters about what it meant to be a man. In these letters were timeless truths from the experiences that they had been through. It was an honor (although at the time I didn’t realize this) to read handwritten letters from these men who told me what it looked like to walk with God in every area of my life whether that be in friendships, marriage, vocation, or family. Texts just wouldn’t have meant the same to me, not to mention they’d be automatically deleted off my phone after 30 days.

That’s an aspect of the Christian life that I think we miss in our current day and age. There’s nothing like a letter from a friend. There really isn’t. At least in my experience. There is something about receiving a letter from someone you love, taking into account the time they took out of their day to write you. Texts, e-mails, voicemails, Facebook messages. All of these forms of communication can be used for encouragement and strengthening the body of Christ for sure, but there is something about a handwritten letter that takes it up a notch.

I know that 2nd and 3rd John came long before our modern communication techniques, but they are indeed personal letters from John to the ‘elect lady and her children’ (possibly a local congregation of believers) and to ‘Gaius” respectively. These are personal letters. From a man to his friends. From one follower of Christ to others.

These are notes snatched from the every-day correspondence of an Apostle – G.G. Findlay

Some scholars believe that John introduced himself in 2 John as ‘the elder’ instead of ‘the apostle’ because it is a little bit more affectionate as a title. This is just a little more confirmation about the nature of these letters. This may show us that he is writing as a friend and fellow Christ-follower in these letters, more than he’s writing as an authority figure to the church (although he does address doctrine).

This blog is definitely not like what you may be used to reading from me, but I hope I can encourage you to follow in the footsteps of not only the apostles of old, but also countless ministers and Christ-followers who have made it a practice of theirs to write letters to churches and friends. If you’ve got the letter-writing bug as I do, here’s some places to start.

1. The Person/People Who Led You To Christ

Even if you’ve been vocal about your gratitude towards this person(s) in the past, it wouldn’t hurt to write them a letter and remind them just how thankful you are that they had the boldness and courage to share with you the good news of the gospel. Yes, the Lord drew you to Himself, but it took men and women who were instruments of His grace in your life to bring you to salvation. Thank them for what they did.

2. A Non-Believer You Want To Share The Gospel With

Yes, we should be vocal in our conversations with non-believers about our faith (I need to work on this one desperately), but why not write them a letter about how you’ve been praying for them and how the gospel has transformed your life? They may or may not read it, and they may or may not respond. But you can show them just how precious the gospel is to you with a heartfelt note.

3. A Missionary In A Foreign Or Not-So Foreign Land

Write a letter to a church-planter, a missionary overseas, or a missionary in your own backyard. When I worked in Phoenix, I read countless letters of encouragement and prayer directed towards the staff of the church which I was a part of. They were lights in the middle of dark and difficult days of ministry. A letter of encouragement, Scripture, and prayers can go a long way.

4. The Christian Who Is Struggling 

Be careful with this one. If you know of a follower of Christ who is walking through a difficult season, you can write them a letter of encouragement. I say be careful because it’s easy to spout out Scripture without showing compassion or concern for the person you are reaching out to. That being said, a letter of encouragement in the midst of trials can go a long way.

5. Relatives

Write a letter to a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, or sibling. Reach out to the family that the Lord has put you in. They may all be saved, or none of them may be saved. Find ways to encourage, equip, and evangelize through handwritten letters to the people who share your family heritage.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but I encourage you to walk through it, as will I.

There’s not much gospel in this blog, but I encourage you to put the gospel in letters to family, friends, fellow Christians, and those who don’t yet know Jesus.

Write for His glory.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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He’s Still On The Throne

He’s still on the throne.

throne
I know Jesus doesn’t sit on a middle-earth throne, but this sure looks cool.

A couple years ago, my mom texted me this amidst a conversation about the trials and difficulties that were present in my life at the time. Certain aspects of the world as I knew it were spiraling out of control in some ways and my mom knew just what to encourage me with. Jesus was still on the throne, even in the midst of what seemed like chaos.

The second Psalm can be a source of great encouragement when the leaders and rulers of our world are prone to evil and wickedness, and when disaster strikes our world, our country, our city, or our family.

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers conspire together against the Lord and his Anointed One. “Let’s tear off their chains and throw their ropes off of us.” – Psalm 2:1-3

Here’s a pretty accurate illustration of the way that Jesus is treated in the minds and hearts of so many in our world. So many in our day take their stand against the Lord and his Anointed One. Now in the case of this Psalm, that Anointed One would be David. But in the case of our day, the one who holds all things together and rules over all is none other than Jesus Christ. The godly man or woman understands that they are submitting to the ultimate rule and reign of Jesus. The ungodly man or woman however is the one who sees submission to Christ as bondage and seeks to break the chains of God’s sovereign hand over their lives.

The one enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord ridicules them. Then he speaks to them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” – Psalm 2:4-6

This is simultaneously one of the most encouraging and fear-inducing passages in the Psalms for me. The Lord laughs at those who seek to break free of His rule and reign. He isn’t scared, intimidated, worried, or anxious when the men and women of this world seek to break free of His rule and reign. Instead He just laughs. He finds it humorous that man would strive to buck up against His rule and reign. Then his anger and wrath are felt as He reminds the wicked of this world that He has installed His King on Zion, on His holy mountain. Jesus has been enthroned. He is enthroned over the cosmos, and He should be given His rightful place on the throne in each of our lives.

I will declare the Lord’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance and the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will shatter them like pottery.” – Psalm 2:7-9

This shows us just how powerful King Jesus is. The nations are at His disposal. The very ends of the earth are under His control. He can shatter the wicked with an iron scepter, breaking them like pottery. The picture of Jesus that is all too often portrayed and presented in our culture is the Jesus that is simply a lover. A guy who sprinkles grace onto our unrepentant sins and personal brokenness, inviting us into a moment of intentional worship and transparent fellowship. While Jesus certainly is a loving Shepherd of the broken, He is also the Victorious King, the One who defeated death, evil, Satan, and every wicked scheme of the enemy. King Jesus is powerful.

So now, kings, be wise; receive instruction, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with reverential awe and rejoice with trembling. Pay homage to the Son or he will be angry and you will perish in your rebellion, for his anger may ignite at any moment. All who take refuge in him are happy. – Psalm 2:10-12

Servitude, humility, awe, reverence, respect. When we come to terms with who King Jesus is, that should be our response. We should come to his feet and worship Him for who He is. Instead of following our sinful desires and bucking up against His rule and reign, we should submit to King Jesus and let Him have his rightful place on the throne of our hearts and our lives. The man who is happy is the man who takes refuge in Him, the man who submits to King Jesus.

In Acts chapter 4, Peter and John were imprisoned and tried for their outspoken faith in Jesus. Upon their release they went to the community of faith and shared with everyone what they had experienced. They used this very Psalm as encouragement in the face of pronounced and intimidating persecution from the governmental and religious leaders of their day.

I do not know what you are going through today.

Maybe you are facing persecution for your faith in and submission to King Jesus.

Maybe you are facing the aftermath of terrible destruction or disaster in your life.

Maybe you are fearful of the future, and the headlines of the news get you more and more worried.

The reality of evil can’t be avoided or run from. However we don’t have to meditate or dwell on evil. We can meditate on the fact that Christ has defeated Satan.

Brother or sister in Christ, may you be encouraged that King Jesus sits on the throne. May you be strengthened in your resolve, strengthened in your faith and trust that King Jesus is not frightened by the news articles that you see on your social media accounts. Brother or sister in Christ, may you be drawn deeper into fellowship with the Powerful King Jesus.

If you’re not sure where you stand with King Jesus today, tell Him so. One thing I love about the Psalms is that they are honest, full of cries to God and raw emotions.

Ask King Jesus to help you trust Him more.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

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