Q Every time I hear about environmental issues I feel guilty and unable to do anything constructive. How can I shake this off so I can contribute?
A Guilt is an interesting phenomenon. When it prompts us to change our actions for good, it can be a powerful force. But when it causes us to shut down, it’s not healthy and needs to be released. On 100 Huntley Street’s recent television series on creation care, a Mennonite man explained that we need to put the guilt aside for a moment, not as an excuse but as a way to open up some breathing room to allow for more creativity in the way we live. Let’s admit it: sometimes we are guilty. But we know that if we admit what we have done wrong and ask for forgiveness, Jesus will help us find the breathing space we need to make positive changes in our lives. Start with one small thing. The African saying Kamu kamu gwe muganda says it all: “One by one makes a bundle.”
Cindy Verbeek is the church and community group liaison for A Rocha Canada—Christians in Conservation and an active member of Houston Christian Reformed Church, British Columbia. For more ideas contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q Years ago unwed pregnant young ladies in church had to stand before the congregation to confess their sin against the seventh commandment. In a recent conversation with one of these people we asked, “Why didn’t the young men stand up and do likewise?”
A The church has always been hard on sexual sin, requiring more of such sinners than it did with other “public” sinners. When well-known author Dorothy Sayers talks about the seven deadly sins, she tells the story of a person who exclaimed, “Seven! I didn’t know there were seven! What are the other six?” And as the John 8 story of the woman caught in adultery illustrates, (male) religious leaders can easily focus only on the females.
Apparently church practice differed regarding this issue. You indicate that only the woman stood, but people I contacted said that in their churches both parties were required to stand. Even when they were not required to stand, both parties were required to meet with the elders. One of the pastors in my home church transformed such meetings into a doubly positive experience when, after hearing the confession of the couple, he instructed the elders, “You’ve heard their confession. It’s now your responsibility to counter any gossip or demeaning conversation you hear about this from members of the congregation.”
—George Vander Weit
George Vander Weit is a retired pastor in the Christian Reformed Church.
Q A friend of mine has incurable cancer. How can I best support and help her without making her feel like an invalid? What practical things can I do? What should I be sure not to do?
A Thank you for this question. Isn’t this a difficult time? My suggestions are of a general nature, but I hope some of them help.
- Listen more than you talk.
- Let her do what she can for herself. If she is struggling, ask before helping.
- Bring her meals.
- Be yourself. Be cheerful, but don’t fake your emotions. Cry when you need to.
- Depending on your friend’s current health and energy, keep your visits with her short. She will let you know if she really wants you to stay longer.
- Allow her to guide the subject of the conversation, including death, heaven, and other end-of-life issues. Few or none of us have the answers, but at a minimum, listen.
- Pray with or for your friend—non-Christians value an “I will pray for you” if they know you are a Christian.
- Continue to visit her as the process continues. Do your best to be constant, even when death is near. You will probably find that in the end it will be an uplifting experience for you as well as your friend, and easier than you feared.
Don’t give your opinion on the medical treatment. If there is a concern, guide her to her own doctor or suggest a second opinion.
Don’t dwell on the concept of “God will cure you.” As Christians we believe this is possible, and we pray for healing, but human experience shows us that this rarely happens when the diagnosis of incurable cancer is made. Most patients are accepting of their prognosis but need encouragement along the way.
Don’t keep a conversation going at all costs; sometimes just sitting there quietly is enough.
Don’t repeat to anyone else what you’ve heard in confidence.
Dr. Herman Borkent practices medicine at Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton, Alberta.