Relative Obligations

The other day, the following Proverb caught my attention, "A relative offended is harder to reach than a strong city." (Prov 18:19a)  In my own life, I've found it to be true that some of my biggest conflicts and the hardest to resolve are with loved ones.  Prompted to dig a little deeper, I found the following insight by the Reverend Matthew Henry:

Great care must be taken to prevent quarrels among relations, and those that are under special obligation to each other, not only because they are most unnatural and unbecoming, but because between such things are commonly taken most unkindly, and resentments are apt to be carried too far. Wisdom and grace would indeed make it most easy to us to forgive our relations and friends if they offend us, but corruption makes it most difficult to forgive them; let us therefore take heed of disobliging a brother, or one that has been as a brother; ingratitude is very provoking. Great pains must be taken to compromise matters in variance between relations, with all speed, because it is a work of so much difficulty, and consequently the more honourable if it be done.

What struck me most about what Rev. Henry had to say is the idea of obligations.  As I wonder why it's easier for me to have grace with another child in AWANA than with Luke, my own son, the answer may lie in the fact that I have higher expectations of him -- I've placed on him a greater obligation.  But does that mean I should lower my expectations?  Not necessarily...

  1. Identifying Expectations: Before I can begin to lower or eliminate an expectation, I must first be clear just what it is I'm expecting.  Often, I don't realize what I've expected until I feel upset or disappointed when that expectation hasn't been met.  
  2. Weighing Expectations: As Rev. Henry states and the Proverbs at least imply, obligations are relative.  Scripture is clear that parents and children have certain duties to each other.  Similarly, what we expect of fellow believers is different than what we should expect of the "lost."  Even having settled that, we must still discern whether our expectations are worthy.  Are they intended to honor and glorify God?  Could it be that our expectations are manifestations of our need for control?
  3. When Expectations Aren't Met: Assuming we've assessed and concluded that our expectations are warranted.  How should we respond when they're not met?  Should we, as Rev. Henry recommends, "disoblige" and take "great compromise matters"?  Absolutely.  I want to be clear that I'm not talking about lowering standards or not speaking the truth.  However, we must remember that we must be quick to forgive and eager to edify.  When a God-honoring expectation hasn't been met, we ought to be disappointed and aggrieved.  But we must be careful that we don't encroach on the Lord's work -- to judge and change hearts.
Questions to Consider (or Reply):
  1. Have you had experience with a conflict/disagreement with a loved one because of a higher expectation?  
  2. Is there a time you can remember where you've been disappointed but haven't been able to explain, even to yourself, what your expectation was?
  3. Do you agree that we must often "disoblige" and be quick to forgive?

Associating with Hope

Let's play a game of word association.  What's the first thing you think of when you hear each of these words?
  • Mother...
  • Father...
  • AIDS...
  • Orphans...
  • Jesus...
  • Christians...
  • Tumaini...
In Swahili, Tumaini means hope.  Around the town of Masii in Eastern Kenya, the ministry known as Tumaini International is the epitome of hope.  Having helped over 1,600 children, Tumaini has a well-deserved reputation in the region.  People know that Tumaini children have access to quality medical care while receiving assistance for necessities like food, shelter, and schooling.  Tumaini staff walk alongside the families, offering not only financial support, but also medical, psychological, educational, and spiritual assistance.

Near Masii, there's a family of seven living in a room that was barely 8' by 8', smaller than some closets in America.  Half the room was occupied by a single bed.  Those who don't fit on the bed sleep on a thin rug, which barely separates them from the cold concrete.  The room itself is rented.  The family has no land of their own on which they could raise animals or plant crops.  Without land, the family has no means of sustaining their meager lifestyle.

Against such a backdrop, one might wonder what difference we, as a team, could make.  We traveled across the world bearing stickers (yes, kids love stickers!), food, toys, games, clothing...  Even the $35 per month to sponsor a child -- what difference will that make in the long run?  Asked in that way, those things and money will have little lasting impact.  However, it's what those things and our actions represent that matter to the Tumaini children.  To those children: 
  • Tumaini means a team of foreigners who care enough to have travelled across the world to play games with the children.
  • Tumaini means strangers who love them enough to drive a couple of hours to deliver a bag of food and visit with them.
  • Tumaini means someone noticed a need and loved them enough to replace their tattered shoes and clothes.
  • Tumaini means a staff of people, both locally and in the United States, who have both the heart and the talent to encourage and equip their livelihood.
  • Tumaini means opportunities to start a small business with the support of microfinance programs.
  • Most of all, Tumaini means that all of these people care by God's grace.  
LORD, you know the hopes of the helpless.  Surely you will hear their cries and comfort them.
You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so mere people can no longer terrify them. 

--Ps 10:17–18, NLT
In a world that seems determined to defeat them, Tumaini find hope as reflected in the eyes of sponsors.  Through that hope, mothers find reason to take their medication.  With hope, children make the extra effort in their studies.  Hope means those hunger pangs are only temporary and the work in the fields can continue.  The $35 per month buys school supplies, medicine, food, shelter...but in the end, that bit of money represents God's grace to otherwise forgotten people.

If you haven't already, consider sponsoring a child.  If you already sponsor a child, continue praying and reaching out to them.  Treat them as your own -- for that's how they see you.  Write letters; send presents.  And, prayerfully consider sponsoring another child.  The need for hope is great; thankfully, the source of hope is greater.