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Jesus Said to Love My Enemy, But...by Kim Halfhill

A few weeks ago I caught the end of a story on public radio about empathy. I was alarmed (but not really surprised) to hear that in less than ten years, researchers have identified a 40% decline in the empathy levels of America’s teenagers. Based on the news and social media, I suspect that teenagers aren’t the only group of people who are less empathetic these days. The interview went on to give me even greater pause. Apparently, we all still have plenty of empathy to go around, but as a society, we’ve gotten pretty selective about who we are willing to show that empathy. Spoiler alert: it’s usually the people we feel deserve our empathy. To quote the interview “the people you believe are hurt or you have decided need it the most.” I can think of plenty of people who need my empathy. And I can probably think of a few who don’t deserve my empathy.  

After all, Jesus said to love my enemy, but surely that doesn’t include empathy. Does it? 

Well upon closer inspection of Matthew 5, here’s what I found.     

You’re familiar with the old written law, "Love your friend," and its unwritten companion, "Hate your enemy." I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.    —Matthew 5:44-47 (The Message)

I’m no scholar, but based on that it sure seems like empathy isn’t just for my friends. When we get selective with our empathy we lose the ability to take the perspective of those we feel less empathetic towards. This usually brings out the worst in us, not the best. Instead of connecting us, this kind of selective empathy divides us.  

Empathy for my enemy. It’s a tall order, but one I can’t ignore. Empathy for the colleagues I disagree with. Empathy for the neighbor whose campaign sign I don’t like. Empathy for the fifth cousin whose Facebook post made my blood pressure rise. Empathy for my enemy.    

This is my prayer for us all. God, help us not just to love our enemies, but to show them empathy, too. Amen.  

at Monday, May 20, 2019
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What Do Christians Have to Do with Ramadan? by Karen Rogers

Thanks to the faithful, almost relentless, encouragement of 2BC’s Ambassador to Other Faith Groups, Ed Chasteen, I recently sat at a table of believers from a variety of faith groups. We dined and shared the challenges of “honoring the sacred in all.” As Rev. Vern Barnet shared his thoughts that evening, he noted that it is because he loves his own faith tradition so deeply that he wants other people to be able to love theirs, too. We thought about what we hold sacred, what fills us with awe, what we’d be willing to give our lives for. It struck me that this kind of conversation honors my own beliefs, but it also broadens the scope of my interactions to understand the hearts, the history, the motivations of others.

It’s Ramadan right now, May 5 to June 4 – a holy month of fasting for Muslims. So, what import does that have for me, a Christian? Perhaps it’s an opportunity to follow Jesus’s example of interacting with those of different backgrounds. 

Jesus spoke with Romans, who came from a polytheistic background; with Syrians and Canaanites, traditionally worshippers of idols including Baal and Ashtoreth; and with Samaritans, whose religion was similar to the Jews in that they followed the Torah and believed in a coming Messiah, but had differences in how they worshiped and looked to Mount Gerizim as their holiest site. (Jim Baton, 2017)

But how and when and where do I encounter believers from other faith traditions in safe, non-threatening, respectful conversation? Fortunately, several local organizations exist which foster interactions between various faith groups. One of them, the Dialogue Institute (https://dialoguekc.org/) has already extended a hand of hospitality and friendship to Second Baptist Church. 

Families of the Dialogue Institute visited our church last year, bringing baklava and table conversations to a church conference meal. This year, they have offered to prepare a meal and bring it to our Social Room on Friday, May 31 – an opportunity to learn and create relationships across cultures while breaking the fast with a Ramadan dinner (Iftar).  It’s our church’s desire that we will return their hospitality in the future.

You may be a part of this experience by joining us from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. on May 31. A reception will be followed by a 20-minute presentation on Ramadan and fasting, then breaking the fast at 8:15 p.m. with our Muslim neighbors. We need your RSVP by May 23. You may respond at here or by calling the church office at 816 781-2824. Children may join in the meal, but childcare will also be provided for children birth through pre-K. Get more information about the event on our events page.

Will you follow Jesus’s example of responding to others in loving hospitality? Half of the outcome may be in finding common ground, but the other half may be finding relationship in areas in which we differ. I hope you will join us on this learning adventure. 

at Thursday, May 16, 2019
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The Crushing Weight of Pay Day Loans by Les Weirich

Second Hope is a ministry of 2BC that helps people get out from underneath the crushing burden of payday loans. The program has been operating since November 2016. Over 25 households have been helped by this ministry. One example of how crushing these loans can be is a Second Hope client who took out payday loans of $1500.00 approximately five years ago. Over that period of time the client has repaid over $20,000.00 and still owes the original amount. This is due to constant renewing and taking out any small cash credited toward the principal balance. This would have amounted to approx. $500/$1000 at most. So for receiving an estimated $2000/$2500 over 5 years, the client has paid over $20,000 and still owed $1500.00.

Second Hope Report as of the End of April 2019

  • First loan made November 2016
  • 25 client loans made totaling $22,000.00
  • Est. payday loan value (365% int.) $80,300.00
  • Est. client savings $58,300.00
  • 3 loans in default totaling $2,000.00
  • Available funds uncommitted $5,000.00

All numbers are rounded. 

This has been a learning experience The primary problem being communications after the loan is made. Consequently, we are making some changes to our process by tying our program more closely with other benevolent services i.e., In As Much, Hillcrest Hope & Good Samaritans. Most of our clients utilize these services on a regular basis so we can communicate with them on a regular basis to review their status. Connection with these services has also increased demand for Second  Hope services. We need more volunteer coaches and additional funds to secure additional loans in a shorter time period. 

If you would like to contribute time or funds to this ministry, please contact Les Weirich or Charlie Hughes. Their contact information is available on The Hub, or by calling the church office at 816-781-2824. If you need help getting out of the trap of payday loans, please call the church office (816-781-2824) and one of our coaches will be in contact with you.

at Wednesday, May 15, 2019
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