Living the New Life Part 1 – Ephesians 4:25-32
October 17, 2021 | Robb Brunansky
Sermon Q&A, Part 1 – Mental Illness
Sermons are designed to provoke questions because sermons are designed to challenge us with the truth of God’s Word. One example of a sermon preached in the New Testament is Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. That sermon ended with the listeners asking, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Yesterday’s sermon at Desert Hills provoked many good and significant questions after the services. Because many people might have similar questions, I want to raise them here and give some answers to help us think biblically about the topics addressed as we discuss the message with one another throughout the week.
There are three key questions that have been discussed, so I will answer one question each day today through Thursday. Make sure you check the blog throughout the week as I post answers to a new question prompted by Sunday’s sermon.
Question 1: Should people who have a mental illness due to physical trauma to the brain receive medical care as well as spiritual help, or is all mental illness strictly a spiritual problem?
This question is significant because it will guide how we help those who are hurting both physically and mentally, and answering it poorly will create unnecessary suffering. We have to recognize that some people struggle in their minds because of physical trauma to their brains. Often this happens through no fault of their own. Babies who are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or whose mothers used drugs, people who are in traumatic accidents that cause brain damage, people with genetic issues that create abnormalities in the brain, and people who struggle with other neurological issues all face the challenge not only of renewing their minds but caring for their brains, and these two issues can be linked because of how God created us as both physical and spiritual creatures.
People who have medical issues with their brains should treat those issues medically. To use an example that is not neurological but is medical nonetheless, someone with diabetes should take insulin as medically necessary. We know that managing blood sugar poorly not only results in physical problems but makes it difficult to manifest the fruit of the Spirit, such as love and patience. Just because the medical problem left untreated can create a spiritual problem does not mean that the medical problem should be ignored and only the spiritual needs addressed. It also does not mean that the spiritual problem is only spiritual. Physical elements are affecting the spiritual life, and we must recognize the inter-connected nature we experience as human beings to show compassion that helps those suffering with physical and, consequently, spiritual issues. Whenever we have physical problems with our bodies, we should do what we can within biblical parameters to address those physical problems, knowing that doing so can sometimes have a beneficial spiritual impact as well.
At times we might not know whether we are grappling with a problem that is spiritual or a problem that is more complex because it is both physical and spiritual. To go back to our example of a diabetic, that person might not realize his difficulty showing patience is connected to a blood sugar problem until he learns that he is diabetic. If you are struggling with a recurring spiritual issue, you should seek biblical counsel from a pastor or other spiritually mature person who can discuss it with you. If it seems that your struggle could be connected to a physical/medical problem, you should also see a physician, especially one with a biblical worldview. A qualified medical professional can help treat whatever physical ailments you might be battling.
To sum it up, we should use a both/and approach to physical/spiritual problems, not an either/or. We treat the whole person with love and care. We seek to remedy or mitigate the physical ailment, and we lovingly disciple the person so they can honor Christ within the challenges they face physically.
Sermon Q&A, Part 2 – Compassion
Question 2: How do we show compassion to the “Gentiles” we know who are living the way Ephesians 4:17-19 describes?
This practical question is significant because we know that Jesus did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance (Luke 5:32). While we must clearly articulate the destructiveness of sin and its offensiveness to God, we must do so in a way that demonstrates compassion for sinners. Demonstrating compassion can be even more challenging when you are confronting sins that our culture sees as virtues, and when the mere act of calling certain things sin is seen as hateful. How can we be compassionate and still identify sin the way God does?
First, we want to ensure our own hearts are in the right place. We are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15), which means that our motive whenever we address sin in another person, believer or unbeliever, is our love for Christ and our love for that person. When we know that our motives are driven by love, compassion will flow from us because we are motivated by love.
Second, we need to understand that speaking the truth in love to an unbeliever may not feel like compassion to them. They may find the truth highly offensive. That does not mean that we have not been compassionate. We see how people persecuted and ultimately crucified Jesus, and we see how they rejected His apostles who preached the truth of the gospel. Their hatred of Christ and His servants was not because Jesus or the disciples lacked compassion but because they identified sin as sin and called sinners to repentance. We should not be surprised if the world hates us or labels us as uncompassionate when we identify their sin and call them to repentance.
Lastly, as I told a few people after the services Sunday, the sermon I preached would be cruel to unbelievers if I did not end it with the gospel hope. That is the compassion Christ has called us to display. The diagnosis I gave of the life of the unbeliever is not my analysis about how they live; it’s God’s description of how they live. But God not only identifies the sins that are so offensive to Him, but He provides hope through His Son. God is willing to forgive all of those sins for those who come to Christ in repentance and faith.
True compassion is not making people feel good about themselves; true compassion is saying what God says the way God says it. In the context of unbelievers, that means showing them the greatness of their sinfulness but that, as we sang right before the sermon, God’s mercy is more.