Watching Train Wrecks

In my work, I read a lot of newspapers and online news sources. I read the New York Daily News, the New York Post, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, Fox News, CNN, The Oregonian, The Statesman Journal, and more…not counting all the sports news pages I visit!

Here are some of the headlines from the today’s New York Daily News:

Photos: The baby ski champ Bode Miller wants back from ex-girlfriend.

Shocking new photos reveal blood-soaked bathroom where “Blade Gunner” shot model girlfriend.

Amanda Bynes goes after “no talent” ex-boy band singer.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman completes 10-day detox after heroin relapse.

Pit bull owner charged with murder after his four crazed dogs mauled female jogger with up to 200 bites.

Harry Styles imposter, 45, lured girls into performing sex acts.

Black-and-blue hooker stayed with pimp even after offer to escape and boldly tells court she’s no victim.

Reading the news is like watching a train wreck – it’s mostly horrible but you can’t take your eyes off it! I’m always struck at how stupid/perverted/thoughtless/self absorbed/ angry/ignorant/irresponsible (pick your adjective) people seem to be. I wonder how people with an ounce of intelligence can make the decisions they make.

Then I realize that like me they are fallen people who are tempted by Satan who is the prince of this world and they fall – hard.

And then I realize that I have to stop being so judgmental about them and instead pray for them, because it is obvious that they do not have God in their lives.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7 that you can tell a good tree from a bad one by the fruit it bears. What he was saying is you can tell someone who follows God from someone who doesn’t by the results of their actions. I have found it very true that we reap what we sow – both good and bad, and for the people in the headlines above it seems just as true.

Most of us don’t hang out with celebrities or know the kinds of people in these headlines. But we do have people in our lives who seem to constantly make bad decisions and put themselves in difficult or impossible circumstances. Do you notice that they often seem surprised that they are where they are as if they had nothing to do with their circumstances and they are victims in some way or another?

I think the most loving lesson we can teach people is God’s truth that we reap what we sow and that we are responsible for both the decision and its consequences. That lesson is not always well received, but if people could embrace the truth of it their lives might change for the better. Here’s why.

God knows we’re all knuckleheads and because of our sin nature we will make stupid decisions that will have painful consequences in our lives. But He’s given us a book in which He has told us everything we need to know in order to make good decisions and have outstanding outcomes. See, God wants us to be successful so He gave us the playbook; the Bible clearly tells us what to do so that we will produce good fruit. The Bible also shows us graphically what happens when we choose to do things against God’s will – bad fruit and severe consequences.

This is why I know the people in the headlines above don’t actually have God in their lives. They are purposely choosing against Him. If they knew the love God has for them and how much God wants them to bear good fruit they would not make the headlines for such bone-headed decisions. If the people in your life knew God this way and followed they too would bear good fruit. But many who claim to be Christians are only saying that Jesus is their savior not their Lord. In other words, they are willing to claim Jesus as their way to salvation, but do not do what he says to do and following him as a disciple as he commands. Jesus has some surprising words to say about this in Matthew 7:21. You may want to read that whole chapter.

So what are we to do as followers of Christ? Do we just watch the train wrecks, shake our heads and walk away? No, I think we’re called to more. I think that God expects those of us more mature in the faith to walk with those who are still drinking milk as scripture says. We need to teach that people reap what they sow and they are personally responsible to God for their decisions. We need to teach how to have Jesus in your life as your Lord and Savior so people can move into discipleship with Jesus obeying what he has commanded us to do. And we need to hold those closest to us accountable for the bad fruit they bear.

Yes, I know what you’re saying. What if they won’t listen? Jesus deals with that, too. When he sent his disciples out into the towns he told them that if a town did not welcome the disciples to shake the dust off their feet and move on. What Jesus is saying is yes, there will be people who reject the message and when that happens you can do nothing more for them. But Jesus does expect you to try.

I have always said that you cannot help someone who is not willing to be part of the solution. Many people are not in a place where they will accept the message – many have to hit rock bottom before they are willing to change. Many more hit rock bottom and still refuse. That is not our problem. We are tasked with praying for those who struggle and walking with those who truly desire to bear good fruit.

It’s not easy. You cannot do it in your own power but only through the power of the Holy Spirit in you. Pray that God gives you the ability through the Holy Spirit to reach those who struggle and cannot seem to follow the ways of the Lord. Be that light of Christ you were created to be and you, too, will reap what you sow.

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