Can they all be right?

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Yesterday I drove with my older daughter to an advisement appointment at the University of New Mexico. She’s not yet a university student, but to help her get the answers she needs about registration and preparation, I made the appointment. She wanted to get Starbucks on the way, and so we ordered a $5 drink, for which I paid. Why? Because I love her.

Now, let me pause to consider the potential failings I made in that situation. In order to equip my daughter with the skills she needs to navigate the adult world, I could have let her set this appointment for herself. She likely would not have done it, which could have caused her to learn very hard life lessons. I could have made her pay for her own drink, and I could have insisted that we go to a local coffee shop that buys only fair-trade farm products and employs at-risk youth. Why? Because I love her.

I’m not trying to be snarky or cute here. I simply recognize that there are different parenting approaches, different lessons to be learned, and different cultures and agendas that impact our actions.

Differences in how we approach life are to be expected. After all, we are individually a sum of our upbringing, influences, and values. What we believe in, feed ourselves with, contribute to, and focus on are the ingredients that make us who we are.

I’ve been contemplating this variety in approaches as I continue my investigation into refugees in America. What to do about them and for them is a politically charged issue that has pulled me into a vortex of information and opinion. The contrast between Republican and Democratic approaches to handling refugees is well publicized. What is not getting coverage is what is happening in the faith community as division in opinion brings about stark differences in the perception of roles and responsibilities.

My observation is that there are two primary categories of faith-based ministries, and it generally applies to those who are working with refugees as well as those dealing with the homeless, the drug-addicted, etc.:

1. Gospel First. This group believes that teaching about Jesus and the presentation of the
Gospel message must lead the way for any work done in His name. People in this
category provide hope and practical help after sharing an evangelistic message.

2. Neighbor Approach. People in this group believe that they must earn the right, through relationship, to share their faith. It is through the work (housing, food provision, friendship,
etc.) that the stage is set for refugees (or others) to ask about the kindness they have been offered. This becomes the “in” to share about Jesus.

I can just about guarantee that if I were to ask leaders from both groups why they are in this line of work, serving as they do, their answers would be almost identical: “Because of my faith in Christ and the call to love our neighbors.” It’s always difficult for me not to jump in with my two cents’ worth of opinion. Being “hungry to learn,” I really want to understand the complexity of the issue at hand. How is it that two vastly different approaches can be generated from the same motive?

Over the course of the last few weeks, I’ve spoken with many leaders who are either Christians working in secular nonprofits, Christians working in faith-based organizations, or a late-addition third category―Christians leading for-profit businesses. I’ve been surprised by the conversations and puzzled by the way these passionate people express how strongly they believe that their method of helping is the most effective way to reach the people they are serving. They can’t all be right, can they?

Now, just for fun, Google “world’s best chicken recipe.” I’m sure that all 396,000,000 are the best.

Stay hungry, friends. Until next time. . . .

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