Action speaks louder than words
Among the most annoying experiences for persons with serious illnesses is being faced with huge medical bills and having to resort to making appeals for help while being flooded with words of encouragement.
While they make the appeal for financial help, their social media page is flanked with comments such as 'be healed in the name of Jesus' and 'Lift your faith and claim your healing'.
On top of their illness, they must now question if their inability to be healed stems from the low level of their faith.
The same rings true for persons who have lost loved ones and in the midst of their grief, well-intentioned, but inappropriate, comments come their way.
Family and Religion reached out to Dr Edina Bayne, associate pastor and member of the American Association of Christian Counsellors, and asked how such persons' plight should be addressed.
She pointed out that it is a general problem in churches regarding how the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented.
"They have this automatic faith response without any action behind it," she said, pointing out that the very word 'faith' speaks of action.
"As James 2:16 points out, when someone who has a need approaches you and the answer you give is, 'go in peace, keep warm and well fed', but you do nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?" said Bayne.
"It presents a problem to the people who are asking. When they get to a place where they ask for help, they really need it," said Bayne.
For her, it's a hard decision to make, opening up oneself like that and revealing one's situation. When a person is prepared to do that, said Bayne, you know the person is desperate and really needs the assistance. The last thing the person needs, she said, is your religion.
"Faith is a religious response to a practical need and it will not work at some point. We have to recognise, sometimes, they are saying it to some people who have lived by faith all their lives, and it's a faith move they are making by asking for help. When you tell them 'have faith', it will make them upset as they already have faith and are at the end of their rope," said Bayne.
SUPPORT OTHER PEOPLE'S FAITH
She shared an experience where a Caribbean woman got the opportunity to get a scholarship for a school in England. Her faithful parents lacked the resources to take up the offer. She said that instead of giving those meaningless responses, her church family rallied around her, hosting fundraising events, resulting in the daughter being able to chase her dream.
"If someone puts a need out there and you don't have the physical means to help, see how else you can brainstorm with them to come up with a solution instead," she said.
For Bayne, these 'believe' and 'in Jesus name get your miracle' sentiments are nothing but "radical nonsense and extreme grace".
"If you have that level of faith, support my level of faith. Don't say the wrong things," said Bayne.
"God knows best, trust God. When a woman or a man has lost their life's partner, don't tell them to have faith. They never told you they didn't have any!" said Bayne, adding that the person needs your energy and support, not meaningless words that do little to ease their pain or address their need.
Bayne puts the blame for this type of behaviour squarely on the pastors who are grooming congregations.
She said that the solution is for them to teach the Church how to think radically and encourage them to have the mind of Christ Jesus, who was always solution-oriented.
"Yes, He was charismatic. Once the people followed Him, He made things happen. The Church has to stimulate that kind of thinking. We can't just keep reciting these faith words. We have to develop it in the Church. The scripture is not for us to recite. It's for us to eat and be nourished and be changed," said Bayne.