When There Are No Easy Choices

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At around 6:00 last night a teenage boy came by the house, and when I came to the door, quietly asked for something to eat.

This is actually a normal occurrence in Barrouallie since children come by multiple times a day asking for food, but I (on the encouragement of missionaries and Vincentian Believers) won’t give it to them unless they earn the food in some way.  This is because the island has a culture of asking for things (even if you don’t need them) and then expressing shock when they aren’t provided for free…I even had a young lady tell me after being given free cooking oil it wasn’t ENOUGH cooking oil!

Because of this I am doing my best to create a new culture in the children who come by to visit in the afternoons.  Food or other rewards is earned by good character (juice and tablet time are given out for free) so a peanut butter sandwich, and at least three pieces of bread are given out as rewards to the best behaved kids.

As the boy stood there on the porch I was honestly conflicted because part of me wanted to give him more food (he had a piece of bread earlier) and another part felt like he had been given enough for one day.

To make the matter harder there were very good arguments for each point

  1. If I didn’t give him food the I was being heartless, If I did give him food then it may become an enabling relationship (instead of working for food he will just come to Mr. John)
  2. If I sent him away hungry then it wouldn’t illustrate the Gospel because God gives Grace, if I did give him food then that may be the only reason he obeys or respects me (just for the food)
  3. If I didn’t give anything it would strengthen the philosophy that food isn’t given out for free, if I did give it then the kids next day would say (why did you give him food?

In a way the grilled-cheese sandwich I made him last night was at the same time one of the most loving things (because I fed him) and unloving things that I could have done.  Because now instead of working for money so he can buy food this teenager will probably come to get another sandwich.

The bottom line is it wasn’t a decision where right and wrong were clearly defined….some may feel one view is the only correct one, but I promise there are individuals who hold the other side just as strongly

Last nights experience came back to me this morning as I read articles about whether or not Syrian refugees should be accepted by the US.  To be honest both sides of this issue have very good points.  Those who are for the acceptance or refugees remind us we are to show others the love of Christ, while those against it believe many of these refugees will carry out a terrorist attack like the one in Paris.

I’m not going to tell anyone what to do in this situation because there is plenty of that going around already.  Instead it’s my opinion we should take a step back and think seriously about this decision, because the right and wrong path may not be as clear as they seem.

Kevin DeYoung wrote one the more insightful articles on this subject yesterday saying

The issue of immigration—both for those inside the country already and for those wanting to get in—is bound to be a pressing political, international, and humanitarian concern for many years. We need Christian writers, thinkers, pastors, scholars, and activists to be a part of the conversation. My plea is that the conversation reflect the complexity of the situation and goes beyond the familiar dichotomies of love versus hate, inclusion versus exclusion, and fear versus compassion. There are too many important things, and too many human lives, at stake to move quite so quickly from solid Christian principles to simple policy prescriptions.

Though my story about the hungry boy is a poor illustration of the refugees struggle, I believe it points out the fact that we shouldn’t be so quick to make this a black and white issue.

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