Hurting People With Good Intentions

In high school I once read a story by a French writer about a baker’s daughter who was attracted to a young man who came to the store every morning to buy bread. Every day he bought a loaf of bread, but he never bought butter. The girl felt sorry for this apparently poor young man. So one day she put a cake of butter inside the bread as a surprise gift. The next morning, the young man stormed into the store hopping mad. It turned out the young man was an architect. He used the bread he bought each day to erase his penciled lines when he made a mistake. The butter the girl had hidden in the bread ruined his entire drawing.

Sometimes, we can hurt people with good intentions.

I read an article on a Christian website about a Christian club at a university that held a conference on homosexuality. They concluded that any kind of love, heterosexual or homosexual, is good and that opposition to any kind of love is sin. One prominent pastor proclaimed that it is a Christian duty to fight discrimination against homosexuality.

The problem with this thinking is that homosexual people are not happy. A psychiatrist in San Francisco once told me that most homosexual people are depressed and that many of them are suicidal. I think that true love is to help them get out of a sinful lifestyle rather than telling them that it is OK to be gay. Many have turned to Christ and have been freed from sinful practices with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We can hurt people with good intentions. Parents who allow their children to do whatever they want without disciplining them, wives who try to hide her husbands’ addictions and shepherds who try to meet all of the selfish demands of their house church members are all examples of this. We may mean well but ultimately set back the people we are trying to help.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether our good intentioned actions help or hurt. At one time, I was afraid that the house church movement might destroy traditional churches rather than reform them. Fortunately, the intentions of restoring New Testament churches have turned out to be positive. South Korea has sent a great deal relief supplies and funds to help the North Korean people. But it is not yet clear if this has helped them, by giving them aid they desperately need, or hurt them by delaying the demise of Kim Jong Il’s tyrannical regime, since most of the relief has gone to the military. Another case is American involvement in Iraq. President Bush toppled the Saddam Hussein’s regime in an effort to uproot terrorism. But it is not yet clear whether the war in Iraq will ultimately reduce or increase terrorist activity. The jury is still out on these two cases.

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