Panel Discussion

Bethlehem 2016 Conference for Pastors and Church Leaders

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Jonathan Bowers: This first question I’ll direct to you, Tim. One of the things that came up in your talk was that you mentioned the difficulty of embracing loss, not only personally but loss for those that you love. So I wonder if you could share some counsel for somebody that might be struggling with the thought of his loved ones suffering. And then as a second part of that question, how would you encourage people who feel the tension between the call to embrace suffering even for their family, but also what seems to be a biblical principle to provide for your family and to protect your family? How would you help people navigate that tension?

Tim Keesee: I think that the biggest thing we need to teach, as we’re training our children and loving God, is underscoring that God is bigger than we are. And sure, I’m not talking about selfish indifference to the needs of a spouse or the needs of our children. Scripture is very clear on our responsibilities as husbands and fathers, mothers, and children to parents. But we can take them to church and they can hear all of the great Bible stories and just be filled with lots of biblical knowledge and come out at the end of it and actually be tested in life and see — because of perhaps the way their parents do not model gospel courage and the belief that moves them to speak and the willingness to take risks — God is not really that powerful. He’s not really that big. He can’t really be trusted.

I think part of our caring for our children is giving them a right view of God. And I’m not talking about taking unnecessary risks. Obviously, protect your family as much as you can, but in the end, again, God is bigger than we are. Just like you can’t save your own life, you can’t fully protect your children. And again, that’s a matter of trusting God. So we look to him, we trust him. This goes against the grain of our culture and even our church culture, but it doesn’t go against the grain of gospel culture. And I think it’s so important that we point our children to God.

John Piper: I think that text about taking care of your family — you’re worse than an unbeliever if you don’t provide for your family (1 Timothy 5:8) — should be taken in the same way that suicide is wrong. Take care of yourself. It’s wrong to commit suicide. But it’s not wrong to risk your life for Jesus. In other words, if the values at stake are high enough, the risks are right. If the values at stake are low, the risks are wrong. I wouldn’t teach my kid how to do hang gliding, but I’d take him to a dangerous place in the world for Jesus. Hang gliding is risking your life for fun. Going to a risking place in the world is risking your life for Jesus. I think risking your life for fun is wrong, and I think risking your life for Jesus is right.

So I don’t think those about not committing murder, self-murder, or killing your family, are to be absolutized. If you’re living a normal life and you’re just a jerk and not bringing any bread home for your family, that text applies to you. If Jesus calls you to go to a hard place and you’re married with kids, the family unit goes together and we take our risk together for Jesus, because Jesus is worth it. Whatever that jerk is doing with his time in the evening when he ought to be with his family, that’s not worth it. So I don’t think that text can be used against risking our lives for Jesus any more than the command not to commit suicide can be used against risking your life for Jesus.

Jason Meyer: I think the only thing I would add to that is if you’re to give that a name, it’s called discipleship. That’s what you’re doing for your kids when you show them that. I was just reading again, The Insanity Of God, and I’ve been so inspired by the pastors that knew they were saying goodbye to go to work and it could be their last goodbye, and the kids knew that. We don’t know. In this time of persecution, they would be saying, “Maybe I’ll be home tonight,” and they were bringing the kids into that. It was always in front of them. They were being discipled and trained that the steadfast love of the Lord, received in Jesus, is better than life. And he’s constantly testifying to that. Kids that see that and grow up in that, cut their teeth on that, that’s a beautiful gift.

Jonathan Bowers: A few questions that have come up about suffering, and Jason, I know that this is something that’s a concern for you too. We’ve talked about suffering that comes from outside of the church and how to respond to that as Christians. How do we respond to persecution, opposition, that comes from within the church?

Jason Meyer: One of my concerns of this conference is that you would only have in your mind the idea that persecution comes from the outside of the church. In the text that I read in 2 Timothy 3:12, Paul says, “Those who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” It’s in the context of 2 Timothy 3, where Paul says, “Timothy, in the last days, terrible times will come. People will be lovers of self, lovers of money, lovers of pleasure, haters of God,” and all of those things. And then when you ask the question, “Well, what’s so bad about these last times we’re living in? People have always been that way, from the beginning of the fall. People have always lived that way.” And as you keep reading, you find out that what’s always been true of the world is now true even in the church, to a larger scope than what was there in the beginning.

So in Acts 20:29, Paul could say to these Ephesian elders, “Fierce wolves are going to come in and not spare the flock. And some of you elders are going to be those wolves.” And now Timothy’s there in Ephesus, and he’s facing opposition. So Paul has to say in 2 Timothy 2:25–26, “When you face this opposition from within, persecution from within, then Timothy, gently correct those in opposition. God may grant repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they’ll escape from the snare of the devil having been held captive by him to do his will.” Those are people held captive by Satan in the church that claim to be Christians. So the wolf in sheep’s clothing comes there too. And what’s the solution? Paul is saying, “Keep speaking Jesus, Timothy. Gently speak Jesus, and know it’s no match for the power of the gospel.”

So I just want to encourage all of you, if you find yourselves not facing opposition and hardship from the outside, but you’re really, really losing heart because of the conflict or whatever you’re facing in your church, we’re talking about that too. The Spirit of God and glory is going to be resting on you there too. Keep speaking. Don’t be a pugnacious jerk in the face of opposition. Gently speak Jesus, and trust only God can reach in the heart and set people free.

Leonce Crump: To that point, the opposition that we’ve faced, that I faced, over the last 16 months has primarily been from the inside. It was not the picketers from that pride parade that were pushing on the human sexuality issue; it was people within our church. It was not picketers on the outside pushing on our complementarianism; it was people from within the church. I’m going to go pragmatically. Pastor Jason gave you some great scriptural foundation there. Pragmatically, I would say when you face opposition within your church, first you need clarity on what it is that you believe, and you can put that flag in the ground and courage will come from that clarity and the understanding of the vision that God has given you from the Scriptures, the understanding of the narrative, the authority of the word in which you operate, the unity of your elders — hopefully you have that. You can stand on those things, and the security of your calling.

It really came to a place where, not in a pugnacious way, it’s going to be me or it’s going to be y’all. And it’s not going to be me, because God put us here and God has called us to this work and we’re going to continue to proclaim the truth to you, to love you, to walk with you in this, and quite frankly, to invite you to take your leave if this is what is going to be necessary. So on more than one occasion — and I don’t know if there’s something wrong with my brain but I’ve never had a fear or love for people to keep the numbers where they need to be — we have invited people and helped them to find a place where they feel you can flourish. There are 100 egalitarian churches around Renovation. And so if complementarianism is going to be a hurdle for you and you cannot see this biblically, then let me help you find a place where you can flourish, rather than have you stay here and be divisive. Because you’re not going to stay here and be divisive.

There has to be a certain measure of gospel boldness as well for you to put a flag in the ground as you either walk people toward the truth or walk them toward and out to a new reality, because that can become cancerous very, very quickly, and it will begin to spread and to infect and to bubble up and to erode the peace and the purity of the church. As elders and as leaders, lay leaders, if you are deacons here as well, you have been charged to guard that peace and that purity, and to make sure that you are not letting that divisiveness run rampant, even within the church.

Jason Meyer: I think one thing I would add practically, speaking to younger pastors out here, is that I think so often you kind of go into a church context with a youthful idealism. You think, “I’m just going to preach the gospel and people are going to respond and everything’s going to work out.” And you get so discouraged because your expectation is so high for what’s going to happen and the reality is low and the distance between that is disappointment. And what happens is that you seriously overestimate what you can do in five years and you underestimate what you can do in 30. So take the long view, stay faithful. I don’t know if Pastor John wants me to say this out loud, maybe not. I don’t know. I found it really inspiring that when he was at Bethlehem and knew the direction, what biblical fidelity looks like when you get opposition came to this example. There was one point — and this might be an apocryphal story, but I think I heard you say it — where you just looked at them and eventually said, “Okay, we disagree, but I’m going to outlive you.”

John Piper: Out-rejoice you and outlast you. It’s not apocryphal.

Jason Meyer: Okay, there it is. It’s a wisdom call to know when to say that to them out loud, but that should be in your heart.

John Piper: Just one other thing. To get opposition from a wolf in sheep’s clothing is clear, and church discipline is in order, and decisive action. But it’s almost never that clear, is it? It’s so messy. The opposition isn’t clearly a wolf. And what measures of discipline for a person who seems to you divisive and to them they’re not, just faithful, is just messy. So I would just encourage you that you need to discern when there are these Barnabas and Paul divisions. They were unbelievably faithful brothers, right?

Barnabas, how could you be better than a Barnabas? And how could you be greater than Paul? And they couldn’t work together. That is really heartbreaking. I wish I could have been there to just be in on some of those conversations that they must have had with each other. They had risked their lives together, and they split. That may be necessary. And it can happen, I think, without hate and without bitterness by maintaining as much effort to be commendatory of the person with whom there seems to be a necessary division.

Jonathan Bowers: Pastor John, as a follow-up to this issue, in your first message you talked about how in America in particular we’ve lived as though it were our home for too long and how we need to reorient ourselves to our citizenship being in heaven. In response to that, how would you talk to somebody who would hear a message like that and might be tempted toward ingratitude to something like the Constitution or the Bill of Rights? How would you help them to walk the line between feeling like America is the greatest hope for the world, but also giving thanks to God for the good things that he’s given us in this country?

John Piper: I think it’s possible to give thanks for things without making gods out of them. I think it’s possible to give thanks for things without getting them out of proportion to the role they’re supposed to play in our lives. Probably the best way to keep those things in this kind of proportion would be to constantly emphasize the superior value of Jesus, or the kingdom of God, over against those things. So take my wife. I should be thankful for Noël, and she shouldn’t even be close to Jesus in my affections. I think there’s a lot of guys who can’t even say that sentence. They gag on that sentence, or their wives would be offended at that sentence. And therefore, for the sake of being the kind of husband I ought to be, I ought to be able to say that. That protects her from not becoming a god and me from becoming an idolater.

So frankly, you have to judge the mood of the moment. If you detect that you’re in a group — small group or in the church — where there’s utter ingratitude for their health or the police or freedom of speech or a church building — just utter gratitude, they’re ingrates — you preach on that. You call them to be grateful. You show them that. You can say, “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). You preach on that. That’s not the position we’re in right now. My detection of what’s going on in America is that’s not the main message that’s needed right now. I don’t feel the least led by the Holy Spirit to say there’s massive ingratitude in America for freedom of speech or whatever. I don’t think so. I think that the tendency to think that way right now is probably driven by fear, not gratitude.

I think it’s probably driven by fear, and I’m not into cultivating that. So the answer is yes, be grateful for every good gift in your life. Be grateful for it. Be a thankful person. And wherever you see those good gifts being elevated or misused, for their own sake and for God’s sake, go after that.

Leonce Crump: I would just add from my perspective, from my vantage point, it is also important to lovingly point out the insufficiency of those same things, in a specific way. So here’s what I mean. You name the thankfulness for the Constitution. Yes, but there were, I don’t know, a couple of hundred years where that didn’t apply to an entire people group. So I don’t see that through the same lens as many of my brothers and sisters. So my gratitude is shaded by the reality of what it did not mean for ethnic minorities, for African-Americans in particular. It didn’t mean that for me, when it was written, “All men are created equal . . .” Except for these that I own, right?

So seeing the insufficiency, even in that beautiful document, allows me to keep it in its place. Because it was not even useful enough, in all of its beauty, to turn the hearts of people to see, “Well, this is a man standing here that I’m treating like property.” Only in Christ, only at the foot of the cross, do we all truly stand equal. So the Constitution then is insufficient compared to the beauties of the gospel. And that helps me, and I believe it can help us all, to keep things even like that in perspective. Does that make sense?

Jason Meyer: And I would add, with thanksgiving, there should be lament. Lament the things that are lamentable. There are people that I hear that say, for example, in issues of ethnicity, “Well, why do people want to keep bringing up the past, like slavery? Why can’t we just move on?” And there’s a smugness, even when they look at a place like Germany and say, “Good thing they have a Holocaust museum so that they remember the atrocities that were committed.” I just learned there’s only one slavery museum in the United States, and it’s a good thing to remember and to lament. So yeah, there are things to be thankful for, certainly, and there are things to lament, and they should go together.

Jonathan Bowers: Tim, here’s another question for you. Someone asked, we hear stories about persecution, about Christians that are suffering and even dying for their faith. How do we think about stories of persecution when we’re not entirely sure that those who are suffering are even Christians?

Tim Keesee: One thing that we need to keep in mind about persecution stories is that, because of the power of the media, when we hear a story, we typically generalize that story to an entire country or an entire people group. And that’s just the nature of the media. So we need to be, first of all, careful about generalizing persecution stories.

We also have to have some wisdom about the source. There are times in which organizations just have it as their business to get these stories out there. And sometimes the more sensational the story is, the better. So we need to be careful who we’re hearing these reports from. I want to urge caution as we get media stories. We’ve been involved in some situations in the past where, because of an arrest, some brothers were in jail and were beaten, and we spent most of our time trying to keep the story out of the media, off the internet, because if we could handle it as a local issue, those brothers could be released and go back to their families.

But once it got on the internet, then it was, “Oh, well then this guy is a big fish. Now we’re going to really beat him up. Do you think we’re going to release him and show that we’re kowtowing to the U.S.? Of course not." So there are a lot of dynamics behind the scenes of these persecution stories, and we need to be careful. And that’s not to minimize the fact that God’s people are suffering. Absolutely not. What was the other part of the question?

Jonathan Bowers: I think you were answering it, but what I have in mind — though the question didn’t address this — are the stories coming out of ISIS, for example, where there are persecuted Christians that may belong to traditions of Christianity that don’t affirm orthodox doctrine. How do we handle that as believers?

Tim Keesee: We should be men and women of mercy. And we should understand that the contexts are sometimes different. We can look at a situation over there and say, “Well, those people are just nominal Christians,” as if there are no nominal Christians in this country, as if there are no nominal Christians in our churches. So we can’t know all of that. What I do know is that there are men and women, because they are Christian, because they name the name of Christ, who sometimes have a bullseye on their back. I’ll always remember being in a situation in Pakistan a few years ago after a major attack on a Christian community. There were 300 Christian families versus 10,000 Muslim neighbors who burned every church down, looted and burned many of the Christian’s homes down. They had to flee for their lives. I arrived with some human rights lawyers and to see the situation, to talk to the police, to ask them to protect the Christians.

While I was going through the smoldering ruins of a number of churches, there was a young man who was walking with me and we couldn’t talk, but somehow he had found a little sticker and it had a Jesus picture on it. It looked like something from Vacation Bible School. He had licked it and put it on his shirt right over his heart. And in that incredibly tense and violent day, he walked with me. It was just like he was saying, “No matter what happens, I’m with Jesus. I’m for Christ. I’m identifying with him.” And I don’t know his heart. I don’t know what church he went to, but we need to love these people.

And also in terms of advocacy, freedom is a good thing. Protection of life is a good thing. So we need to do all we can to protect those who are Christian, whether they’re nominal Christians, or even just historic communities of Christians. I’ll also say this, among those historic communities of Christians, there are born again believers. So again, it’s just hard to decipher all that on this side. But I say we should love mercy and love those who identify with Christ, and we continue to strengthen the churches in those areas and see that the gospel, the witness of the risen Christ, goes out in those regions of hardness and darkness and violence.

John Piper: I don’t think we need to have any hesitation to extend that mercy to Hindus as well, if Muslims are killing them. So if your question means how do we think about people being persecuted, who we don’t even know if they’re Christian, we can act with mercy. That’s what I’m saying. If you do know they’re Christian, I mean, the Bible says, “Do good to all men, especially those of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). So there’s a special affection when a Christian brother’s being killed, but there’s a similar kind of good to the non-believer who’s being killed. And that’s the point of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The issue is not whether he is a believer or not. The issue is, is he hurt? You’re in the body. He’s in the body. That’s the argument. You are able to empathize with the pain. So when we advocate for freedom, for protection, it’s just right across the board. And then there’s a special care for the brother.

Tim Keesee: Understanding the body of Christ means that we’re going to really pray hard for brothers and sisters. I’ve noticed that sometimes if there’s a pastor in another country and you find out his denomination and it’s not yours, it’s just like, “Well okay, we’ll pray for him.” But if the church sounds like your church, then it’s like, “It’s Bethlehem Baptist Church in Baghdad,” then we think, “Oh, we’re going to really get on our knees and pray for them. They’re one of us!” Well, that’s not a good understanding of the body of Christ. So pray for brothers and sisters all over the world.

Jonathan Bowers: What do you think or what would be your counsel to churches as they’re really trying to wade through perhaps avoiding potential legal trouble that might come in the future? I think in the light of the Obergefell decision and the definition of marriage, I know there’s a lot of churches that are adopting statements to avoid potential lawsuits. Do you think that’s a wise thing? How would you encourage churches to go about preventing legal trouble in the future?

Leonce Crump: I don’t mind jumping in. I can tell you what we’ve done. We have adopted a statement just clearly defining marriage. We’ve placed that into our articles of faith. We’ve placed that into our membership training manual. It’s not so much to avoid a lawsuit. I mean, if you think that the government cannot find a way around your statement, I mean, it’s silly, right? It really is another opportunity for us, in our mind as elders, I think I can speak for all of our elders, to really stand on a firm foundation of what it is we believe in how we’re shaping the life of our people and how we’re shaping the culture of our church.

So I tell people in leadership environments all the time, culture eats vision. So you can have all the vision you want. Your vision can be to be one thing, but your culture is what people are going to feel and what’s going to define your church. So in trying to continue to shape the culture of our church, we felt it necessary to adopt the statement, to make it public, to have our members vote on it, to put it on our website, to put it in our membership materials, and to put it in our articles of faith, not for fear of a lawsuit. If a lawsuit comes, the lawsuit comes, but it’s so that everyone who comes to participate in the life of the church knows exactly where we stand and why, regardless of what has been decided in the courts.

Jason Meyer: I think all things being equal, having statements that are really clear like that are better than not having them. But I also want to say, we don’t trust in them. It’s not like we’ve reached the point where we say, “Oh yeah, bring on a lawsuit. Our documents are really clear.” We’re not saying that. We can use horses and chariots, we’re just not supposed to trust in them, hope in them. I have no hope or trust that, because our statements are so clear and airtight, that we think, “Oh, we can’t be maligned falsely and actually have them succeed.” If it comes, it comes.

Jonathan Bowers: Let’s shift gears a little bit. Minneapolis is an urban context. Even at the convention center here, you’ve got a lot of people from even the city just walking through. How do you respond to people that would come up to you and ask you for money? Do you give them money, do you not? What do you say to them?

John Piper: Where did that question come from?

Leonce Crump: It’s not mine. I promise.

John Piper: We were having a conversation.

Leonce Crump: We just talked about it.

John Piper: Yeah, we did. So I’ll tell you what I said, and then you should chip in. I live in the city and have evolved on this issue over the years. In fact, I’ve gone in and out of various convictions. The older I get, the more literally I take the statements of Jesus. And maybe that’s because I’m getting close to him and don’t have any sophisticated arguments that I think are going to hold when I face him.

He said, “Give to him who asks.” That’s Matthew 5:42. He says, “If someone takes your shirt, give him a cloak as well. If somebody sues you or makes you go a mile, go with them two” (Matthew 5:40–41). My wife said it so beautifully when we were talking. She said, “Probably at the judgment day, Jesus will never chasten us for being taken advantage of.” I think that’s exactly right. You will never get spanked on judgment day and have a reward withdrawn from you because some panhandler on the street got more out of you than he should have. Never. You won’t ever be criticized for that. What you’ll be criticized for is what I did for years. I justified my stinginess, my laziness, and my desire for privacy by arguing that this is just going to feed his drug habit, and so I’m a good man in saying no.

I just don’t have that peace anymore. And therefore, I’m inclined to give to everyone who asks. I make a good salary. I will not lose anything. Nothing is going backward in my life by giving a dollar or 50 cents to everybody who asks me. Nothing is changing. My conscience is better. I feel closer to the spirit of the Sermon on the Mount. I’m not persuaded that my contribution here will make their life worse. So that’s where I am. Now, if you are more savvy than I am with regard to direct connections between a gift and the damage you bring to a person, then you may make a different call.

One more thing. It’s very common today to see people standing on corners with their cardboard signs, and you drive by them every day, which I do. Or I walk by them every day. One is named Gloria, and another is named Jim. And I just think you should get to know those people. If they’re in your neighborhood, if they’re within walking distance, you should get to know them. You ask their stories. I gave Gloria a $20 bill. I said, “I know you’re here to make money. Here’s 20 bucks. Tell me your story.” She stepped aside and said, “Not a problem. I’ll tell you my story.” And she gave me her life story. So I said, “Okay, now I’m a believer. I think I don’t want you to be out here if you don’t have to be.” She told me how she’s trying to get off and go on. She had the gospel. She said she was a believer. And now Gloria and I have a relationship. And I don’t give every day, but I ask her how she’s doing and we talk. That’s another key piece, I think. If you’re in the hood, then get to know people. Talk to people and try to get into their lives.

Leonce Crump: Can I do some leveling? Amen to everything that Pop just said. Where I found myself is taking it to my heart in training our people, because we’re downtown. You could easily give to 15 people a day downtown where we live and where our building is. So I think there are two things to consider, and you’ve got to take this up with the Lord. Because I think just as beautifully generous as you are in just saying, “You know what? I’m going to obey Jesus literally,” I think there’s also a posture of hurriedness and busyness that says, “If I give you this five bucks, you’ll leave me alone and I don’t have to talk to you.” And that is what I have found a lot in Atlanta in people that I engage with on this issue.

I’m talking about Christians. I’m not talking about unbelievers. Christians don’t give because they feel motivated by Jesus to give to everyone who asks. They give because it assuages their conscience. It makes them feel good about what they’ve done, and then it gets that person out of their hurried life. They woke up late because they won’t go to bed on time, so they’re eating cereal while I’m driving my car. I’ve seen people eat cereal. I saw a guy shave on a major highway in our city. It’s incredible. So they’re in a hurry. People are in their way. They think, “If you’ll leave me alone, here’s five bucks. And now I feel good, because I did good. And you’re out of my path, and I’m done with that.” So I think that’s one thing you need to consider in giving, is why you’re giving. Pop said he gives because he feels more compelled by the Sermon on the Mount. Don’t just give money because it assuages your conscience and gets that person out of your path.

I would add to that then, as a second step, whenever you can, and you’ve already said this, engage them. Know them. I have friends. I count them as friends, who live on the street. I’ve tried to help them get off the street. They don’t want to get off the street. So you’ve got to consider then that mental illness is a major factor in homelessness. No human being will look you in the face that has all the pieces of the puzzle and say, “I’d rather live in this box than in a warm bed where I have structure around my life.” And that is a conversation I had with a man three weeks ago. I’ve helped him get in programs before. He’s left. I went back to get him again. He said, “No, I’m not going to have somebody telling me when I can wake up and when I can go to sleep. I’m going to stay in my box.”

Well, I know something’s not clicking there, so I’m going to love him. I’m going to walk with him. I’m going to do as Paul said, and give him more than the gospel. I’m going to give him my life, because I am desirably affectionate toward him. He’s someone that the Lord has put in my path. So I’ve evolved on this in the respect that I will give to just about anyone who asks, but not if I know it’s going to damage them. Because there are people that I do know who would do that. Billy is a man in my neighborhood, and if I give Billy 50 cents, he will find a way to buy a beer or three, and get smashed. So I’d rather take Billy to breakfast and sit and talk with him and make sure that he has food in his stomach so that when he gets drunk later, it won’t be as bad as it would be if he was not with a full meal on his belly. And that takes time. It’s very different than just assuaging your conscience by throwing five bucks or 20 bucks or 50 cents into somebody’s pocket and moving on. And that’s all I would add to that.

Jonathan Bowers: Tim or Jason, anything that you would add to that?

Jason Meyer: I totally agree with everything that was shared. One of the things that I try to do is this. There are relationships where you know people and you know it’s going to hurt them to give money, you know what they’re going to do with it. I agree that as you talk to them, as you share your life, it’s almost as if the very act of sharing what you have can manifest something of God. If you see someone who doesn’t have the world’s goods and you do, and you close your heart to that, how can the love of God abide in you? (1 John 3:17). That’s huge. What am I saying about the way God thinks about you? If I’m supposed to be manifesting God, living the life of Christ, what is that saying to that person? It matters to me how God is manifested through love. And sometimes, even if I don’t carry around a lot of pocket change, I’ll carry around granola bars or whatever so that I can give something.

Leonce Crump: You can give gas cards or gift cards.

Jason Meyer: I can just give whatever, and have an opportunity, usually, to interpret for them, here’s why I’m giving. This is a good thing I can give. The best thing I can give you, though, is to tell you about the God who loves you.

John Piper: Just to make it hard on everybody. Jesus said, if they sue you to take your shirt, give him your cloak as well. So you are condoning a ripoff. Now, if I’m talking to an evangelical believer who wants wisdom on panhandlers, or whatever you’re going to call them, and his knee-jerk reaction is, “You’re blessing sin and you’re advocating for a lifestyle that’s wrong and you’re helping them hurt themselves,” I’m saying, on the same level as the gun issue, something’s wrong here.

That’s my concern as a pastor. I’m not into helping you figure out precisely what to give and when to give, any more than I’m precisely into helping you figure out whether to own a gun or not. That’s just not the issue. The issue is your heart. Why don’t I read the Sermon on the Mount and weep over me? Because I’m prone to do just what Leonce — “Get out of my way. I’m on my way to an important meeting.” And I think the point of the Sermon on the Mount is to devastate us, just devastate us, and make us realize that when we’ve got a shirt and they’re taking our shirt, the issue is not, “How can I make sure that they don’t get the rights that they shouldn’t have?” The issue is, “How free are you from fear? How free are you from possessions? How free are you to be radically mine?” That’s the point of the Sermon on the Mount. So I’m just going to push hard on saying, don’t think too much about whether you are condoning a drug habit, because Jesus said to give to that, didn’t he?

Leonce Crump: Yeah.

John Piper: Okay.

Leonce Crump: He said that. I wanted to go on record. Amen in that.

Jonathan Bowers: Well, we’re out of time, so we’ll have to draw this to a close. But thank you to each of you men for your contributions. We really appreciate it.