Udo and Debbie Middelmann

Despite the icy roads and blowing snow, we had a good turn out tonight for Udo Middelmann’s lecture on Christians and the economy.  It was a special treat to meet Debbie Middelmann, the daughter of Francis and Edith Schaeffer.  She spoke of caring for Edith, who though 94 and ailing, is still fighting for and enjoying her life.  Debbie said that unlike other Swiss Christians, who want Edith to let go and depart for heaven, she insists that death is the enemy that is to be resisted until the end.  So rather than long for Jesus to take her mother, she prays for Jesus to come.  She really should write down her journey of caring for her mother, as this would be a terrific practical application of the culture of life which her father wrote about so many years ago.

During Udo’s talk he mentioned that one of the causes of our economic crisis is our individualism.  It hit me that I was guilty of this in my reaction to this week’s proposed mortgage bailout.  I had selfishly said that it wasn’t fair that those who acted irresponsibly received tax dollars when I didn’t.  The government and the media encouraged this selfish thinking when they told us that we should accept this because it is really in our individual best interest to stem the tide of foreclosures.

I don’t know if it would change what I think the government should do, but I know that I’ll be less angry if instead of focusing on the injustice done to me I ask what is in the best interest of these borrowers who are underwater.  What if I ask what is the loving thing to do towards them?  And towards the other responsible borrowers?  Perhaps it is loving to permit them to suffer the consequences of their bad loans, perhaps not.  But I like that I’m asking what is in their best interest rather than simply what is in mine.

I’m ashamed that I haven’t asked that question until now, but instead have focused mostly on the implications for me.  But asking the question in this way seems much more Christian, and it also has the side effect of lowering my blood pressure.

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  1. I do not think we have begun to understand the consequences of individualism in the West. It’s the water in which we swim; if we deny that we have been shaped by individualism we are like the fish who claimed to be dry.

    Your points about the economy are well made. I still don’t like the “stimulus” package.

  2. “I’m ashamed that I haven’t asked that question until now, but instead have focused mostly on the implications for me. But asking the question in this way seems much more Christian, and it also has the side effect of lowering my blood pressure.”

    Mike,

    It looks like you’ve been reminded that even though we are “new creations” in Christ, Children of God in the Beloved, we still live in the context of the “old creation” and the “old man” still rears his ugly head once in a while (and for some of us, more often than we would like!🙂

    The encouraging part is that the HS brings this to our attention and reminds us that we must keep our eyes on the “author and finisher of our faith” our Lord, Jesus Christ. Even as Christians (new creations in Christ), we’re still touched by the “old creation” because we haven’t yet been “perfected” in our holiness; yet in these times the Spirit encourages us with the truth of the Gospel: that “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ” and that in Him, “The requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us”, and that we can be confident of our standing before Him as Children of God because the Spirit of Christ dwells within us and reminds us that “we overwhelmingly conquer through HIm who loves us” and that nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8).

    Even when the “old man” seems to arise from the dead, the Spirit reminds us of who we are in Him. And that’s a great encouragement-and good for our blood pressure!🙂

    GGM

    By the way, your post was also a gentle rebuke to me for the same reasons…, and I thank you for that.

  3. Sadly, it is the financial system that is broken and even corrupt. When lenders are pressured or even forced by government regulations to give loans to people who cannot afford them you know disaster is around the corner. The idea that forced redistribution of wealth will somehow solve the inequities in our society is bogus right out of the starting gate. When government gets involved and takes the hard earned fruit of one persons labor and forcibly gives it to another, incentive is gone and repercussions will come.

    The challenge for us as believers is to so labor as to God’s glory and let the chips fall where they may. Jesus never promised fair in this life but He did promise glory in the next!

  4. Thanks for this post. I have been trying to figure out how to think about this topic biblically. This helps.

  5. Thanks, Mike. This is a probing entry and as I said, how we think about — and more importantly pray for — our debt-ridden neighbor reflects who we are.

  6. Mike –

    I might be taking the conversation in a different direction here, but your mention of individualism caused me to think about this. Individualism is traditionally as American as apple pie. As a result, we too often see it in the American Church. It not only manifests itself in our common failure to love others as ourselves, but also often leads to an emphasis on “my personal relationship with Jesus” as opposed to “my place within the body of Christ.” Finally, our individualism contributes to an presumption that God exists to fulfill our needs, as opposed to understanding that we exist to glorify God.

  7. Staying out of debt requires healthy individualism – to not be consumed with the Joneses, setting priorities, and the ability to say no.

  8. Pete:

    I agree with all that you said and even preach against those forms of individualism–which is why I was so surprised to find that I had been thinking in those terms about the mortgage bailout. It still may not be loving toward people to bail them out of the tough hole which many of them dug for themselves, but I like my new and Christian way of getting there.

  9. Mike –

    I couldn’t agree with you more (which is not unusual). I found myself the other day thinking in the same terms (it’s not fair to me that those other, irresponsible people should get bailed out…). Funny how sensitive we are to fairness when we perceive ourselves as being on the short end of the stick.

    My attitude that day reminded me of that of Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner’s character) in Field of Dreams. Toward the end of the movie, having done all sorts of things for other people (or at least theoretically for other people), he proclaims something to the effect of, “I did all this stuff and not once did I ask, ‘what’s in it for me?'” Upon being asked, “What are you saying, Ray?” he responds, “I’m saying…what’s in it for me?”

    I need to remember that all of life is to be lived to the glory of God, and not run every situation through the grid of “what’s in it for me?”

  10. Pete –

    The point of my earlier post exactly. Some lessons I come to very hard but this one I was fortunate to have learned at an early age. My dad has lived out the simple truth that equity and fairness is something that we cannot expect very often in this life. If we are to know joy in life our motivation must be from a higher rhelm.

    Was it not Paul who considered all of lifes advantages as rubish for the simple truth that he may “know Christ”? There was not much equity in Paul’s sufferings except that they were allowed by Jesus that he may be conformed into the image of Christ and “so some how he may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

  11. Dead on, Layman. If we are looking for “fair,” we’re looking for the wrong thing. After all, the fact that, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21, ESV) is neither what Jesus nor we “deserved.”

  12. There is a distinction between the concept of “Individualism” as defined in secular, worldly, fleshly terms and the concept of “living primarily as an Individual” (as always in the presence of God and unto God) in biblical terms. The danger is to not understand this difference. The difficulty is to live the difference.

  13. I am a high school classmate of Udo and currently a missionary in Nigeria.
    Would like to contact him about a school reunion, and wish him well.

  14. Lee Johnson,
    Udo now teaches at The King’s College in NYC. Call the college to connect.

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