Difficult Choices

I have never encountered this problem personally within my family, but it's something I've had to deal with many times over the years. I work at a homeless shelter, and there are times when people come, we develop a strong bond with them, but things get out of control, which causes us to have to make some difficult choices. 

Making these hard decisions is never easy or simple. In fact, there are times, when making these decisions feels so heavy, that I've been left feeling drained and unable to sleep. Dealing with this drama will impact the people we love! It will affect us, affect them and affect those around us. 

A few years ago I knew this guy named Troy. He was homeless and lived on the streets for years. We got on really well. He was an older guy who loved Jesus and the Bible. But when he would get drunk, he became very loud, aggressive and opinionated. There were times I'd find him sleeping in alleyways and other dangerous places, making me very concerned for his health, safety, and well-being.

At our shelter, at that time, we opened these rooms that we put some older guys in. So I took Troy in. At first, he did really well. In fact, he sobered up. He saved money, his area was immaculate and his big KJV bible sat opened next to his bed all the time. He did not sip a lick of alcohol for quite a few months. People around him loved him too. 

Then sadly, things slowly changed. His bible closed, his savings were being used and he started drinking again. I'd talk to him, we'd work out healthy solutions, we'd set goals and he'd slow down, but within weeks, the chaos would rise up again, often worse than the time before.

Finally, the time came when everything got out of control. He went on a binge, was extremely intoxicated, was yelling profanities, cussing people out and he even dropped his gin bottle out of the 4th-floor window, just missing a mother with her baby in a stroller below. 

Obviously, a hard decision had to be made. I had tried and tried again, offered some solutions, but he blatantly pushed them away. He had gone beyond the point of listening. It had come to a point when he needed to move on. We weren't doing him any good! He'd put a child at risk and I couldn't stop the downward spiral he was on. He was hurting himself, putting others in danger and had become increasingly hostile. It hurt me, because I loved this guy, had prayed for him, I wanted to see him do right, I wanted to see him successfully move on, but I couldn't prevent it, he was going to do what he was going to do! 

Hebrews 12:11 says; “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.”

When we love someone, it can be extremely hard and painful to discipline them. But there are times when we have to make these hard decisions. We often don't want to do what needs to be done, but if we love someone, we need to do it!

When God disciplines us, He does it for our good. He does it to bring about change. He does it to bring about repentance. He does it to bring us back to Him. He does it to bring about the peaceful fruit of righteousness. 

If we find ourselves in a similar boat, we need to do likewise. If we need to make a hard decision like this, we need to follow God's example of how He disciplines us. 

I know in my life when God has disciplined me, or when my parents disciplined me, it was a painful experience at first, I didn't understand it, it made me angry, but as time moved on, it brought about positive change. When I look back now, I'm actually thankful for those times. 

If we're in a situation, where we need to make these sorts of difficult decisions, I want to encourage you all with 3 things tonight. 

Firstly, Jesus calls us to love, no matter the circumstances. To love as He called us to love. To love through the good and the bad, to love with an enduring love, to keep on loving no matter what. Troy said some ugly things about me and my family during this time, but as children of the Kingdom of God, we need to keep on loving and not give up on someone when they let us down or hurt us. Through all our decisions, however painful they may have been, we need to keep on loving our neighbors as ourselves.

It's not an easy thing to do. I live in the same area as the place I work, so I frequently encounter people I've had to make some hard decisions about. To keep on loving them isn't always easy, especially since some of them were put out because of violence and threats. But that's what we've been called to do! That's what Kingdom Love is.

Despite all the wrong I've done, Jesus never turned His back on me, He still loves me, and I need to follow his example by loving others with His enduring love!

Secondly, as followers of Jesus, we are called to show Mercy. Our mercy can't stop because of these decisions we make. Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy." With Troy, I tried things again and again. Sometimes it would work, other times it wouldn't. Just as God shows mercy to us when we don't deserve it, we also need to show mercy to those who don't deserve it. 

We may set boundaries, but that doesn't stop us from being merciful. It's important not to shut the door completely, it's important for them to know they're still loved. It's important to give when we can! 

Thirdly, as followers of Jesus, we are called to forgive people. When asked how often; Jesus replied "70 x 7". In other words, we should never stop forgiving people. Sometimes it seems, there are certain people in our lives who never learn, but each time they hurt us, Jesus says "I have forgiven you for your heinous acts, you need to do likewise!"  

Even when we have to make hard painful decisions, we shouldn't hold a grudge, we need to forgive. That doesn't mean we need to put the rest of our family in danger or keep on getting ripped off. It means we put ourselves in the vulnerable position of letting them know, by both our words and deeds, that they are still loved. 

Troy's story didn't end in tragedy. He endured a brief period where he hit rock bottom. Things were awful during that time. Eventually, he gave up the bottle again and moved into a Nursing Home, where he found peace and lived the remainder of his days. Through it all, he kept on loving Jesus, and Jesus never gave up on him. 

Remember: God doesn't give up on us. He will never leave us, nor forsake us. Even when He disciplines us, He keeps on loving us, He keeps on showing us mercy and He keeps on forgiving us. 

We, as followers of Jesus, need to follow God's example and do likewise. 

A brief summary of why I wrote this: There's a ministry on the West-side of Chicago called Mission:USA; every Tuesday night they have a Church service called The BRIDGE. Their services are open to everybody, but especially those who find it hard to gel in their local congregations! Or to put into cruder terms; a lot of these men and women are ex-offenders, homeless and low-income folk who have felt ostracized and rejected by many churches, so their mission is to be a bridge between prison, the streets, and the Church. The Bridge helps these wonderful men and women find churches that will welcome them with open arms..... 
And isn't this exactly what the Gospel and the "Kingdom of God" is all about? 

Every Tuesday night, The Bridge has a host team from a Church, who greet the guests and provide a meal. The guests anonymously submit questions about their "walk of faith", and staff from The Bridge pick out a relevant question. Meanwhile, they have invited 3 pastors from 3 different churches to come and give a 10 minute sermon each about this specific question or topic. In my humble opinion, this is a great concept and ministry, who's staff is very loving, compassionate and supportive to the "least of these".
This was a sermon preached on 10/11/16, in response to this question; “Family living situation drama”
"There’s a family member staying in the house with us that isn't paying rent, and is causing a lot of chaos. I’ve been trying to be Christian about this, but the situation hasn't gotten any better. What do I do?"
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