"Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ." -- Galatians 6:1, 2

Those experiencing life among peoples in other nations are awed at the way they "see" American prosperity. In third world countries, the American lifestyle and home equipment is beyond comprehension--power, cooking stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, hot water, etc. In many European nations (including Eastern Europe), people cannot comprehend the affordable food available to typical Americans. In numerous cultures only the extremely rich can afford to eat as the average American eats.

Thus a third world parent who loves his/her child dearly might beg a returning American, "Take my child to America with you!" Or, a well-to-do Eastern European recipient of "southern hospitality" here cannot respond "in kind" when the American visits.

Their common perspective: "Americans are incredibly happy because they have so many material things." Try to explain to people in unimaginable poverty or to people who never have things available we take for granted the reality of pain in America. It is impossible! They, as too many Americans, think happiness is found in possessions. They, as too many Americans, think possessions and lifestyle make unhappiness impossible. They, as too many Americans, conclude the key to happiness is material well being. They, as too many Americans, think, "If I had all I want, I would be happy." Often they, as we, want to fill empty lives with things. We know the emptiness, and we are confused because "things" do not fill it.

There is so much pain and hurt in America! What pain and hurt? The pain and hurt of failed relationships (marriages in misery; divorce; alienation between parents and children). The pain and hurt of mortality (ask any older person--aging is not a joyful experience, even if you get rid of arthritis and wear Depends!) The pain and hurt of sickness and death (being sick is no fun, and dying hurts many people beside the one who ceases to live physically). The pain and hurt of injustice (there are tons of ways to make victims). The pain and hurt of loneliness (feeling like no one cares is awful!). Lengthen the list: hopelessness, injuries, addictions, failed expectations, disappointments, etc.

Christians have a unique voice too rarely heard in our culture. We should be (must be!) the community who cares! We have a way to love and be there for each other because God teaches us how to love and be there. Want to see God's love and concern? Look at Jesus! Through Jesus, God reveals life's true focus. Being a Christian, being a part of the Christian community, does not remove all hurt and pain. It shows us how to care for those in hurt and pain. In that community, God Himself shows His people how to love and care. This is the courageous voice we must share with America--and beyond!

Jesus: "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them." Luke 6:32

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Bulletin Article, 14 March 2004

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