This morning I very serenely typed in my facebook status entry: I am placing principles before personalities.
Read: I am an idealistic person and intend to keep to those ideals even when you try to drag me side to side with your drama.
Enact: well, I just expected to get on with my day.
Whoops. God has a great sense of humor. "You really believe that, T? Let's see you apply it here." And whammo here comes a Situation. A Real Situation. A Real Complicated Situation.
Our church gets a request for help from someone who's in the hospital, uninsured, racking up bills, needs help. This person doesn't make a direct request that we pay his bills, but that we "organize a fundraiser" such as we have done for others in the past. Principle of the thing tells me, "go ahead and help." Also the fact that this person is appealing to the church makes it likely for us to help. If we were asked as private citizens we might weasel out of it, but the risk of being asked "in the name of God, please help" gives the situation gravity. It reminds me of Paul appealing to Caesar (presumed just), or the many people in the Old Testament who fled to "the horns of the altar" where YHWH (the very definition of just, even merciful) would protect them.
I do a little fact-checking first, at my supervisor's request, because we are not sure who he is or why he's asking us. We are, indeed, the only tall steeple in town, and so it's true that non-churchers still think of us as "their church." That's great... but we need to know more... is he someone's friend or relative?
Well in my fact-checking I ran into some problems... from an exaggerated claim of kinship to a reputable family in our church... to an exaggerated claim of employment by said family... to eviction notices from his landlord (a friend of mine)... to vicious dogs running loose, a confederate flag on his porch, and general reports of behavior that has offended many neighbors.
i.e. in my fact-checking I found myself tripped up by a Personality... a Strong Personality.
Principles are tricky things. When they are laid out simply, as in "help the needy," sure, fine. But when the scenario is "help the needy person who owes your friend money," really, you have to ask yourself if you help the debtor or the debtee. When the scenario is "help the needy person who has alienated all his neighbors" -- maybe, I might be able to help -- but when it is "help the needy person (in the name of the church), who has alienated all your church members," I'm not sure what the principle would even BE.
Well I'm invoking some "don't be stupid" principles... I am sticking to the "help the needy" principle but declawing it a little. I don't think we can help him directly. We can help him with referrals to other organizations. And we, the church, can have a little prayer time along with Jesus' horrifying suggestion that we "pray for our enemies."