To be insensitive to the needs of others is for Christians a denial of who they are and of what their Lord requires of them. If the main theme of Scripture is redemption, united to it as effect to cause is the theme of responsibility for one’s neighbor. From the question in Genesis 4, “Am I my brother’s keeper?,” through the epistles, the Bible demands concern for the well-being of others.

Woven into the very fabric of Christianity is compassion. At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus applied to himself the words of Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” At the heart of Jesus’ ministry was concern for the individual. He left the ninety and nine and sought the one. For him the individual had immeasurable worth; he died not for an impersonal mass of humanity but for persons.

Paul’s exhortation, “Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus,” points to the supreme example of unselfishness who laid aside the insignia of his divine majesty and became obedient unto death. Our Lord’s word to his disciples, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” demands selfless living. Moreover, Christ spoke in terms of his own identification with the deprived and underprivileged: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.… Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren you did it to me … as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.” Involvement in the lives of others is an essential element of Christian compassion. To cherish one’s own rights without willingness to be personally involved in the need and deprivation of others is a kind of negative testimony that keeps those from listening to the Gospel who need it most. If the world feels that we who stand for doctrinal purity lack compassion for the wounds of the world, it will pay little attention to what we say.

Distortion of truth is always dangerous. Half-truths are never less than deceptive. Evangelicals justly criticize the social gospel as a half-truth. There is only one Gospel, and that is the Good News of salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To insist upon this is not to deny the social aspect of Christianity. It is simply to stand with the Apostle who warned the Galatians so vehemently against any other gospel than that which he had taught them. To refuse to allow the social gospel to supplant the Gospel does not cancel the command of God for Christians to help those in need.

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Evangelicals also may fall into the snare of the half-truth in respect to the practice of Christian compassion. Whereas liberalism has tended to substitute for the Gospel itself the compassionate result of the Gospel, some evangelicals have tended to evade that result by resorting to another kind of half-truth. Thus there are some whose lack of concern for social justice is reflected in an uncritical use of the statement, “You can’t legislate morality.”

Now there is a sense in which it is indeed true that you cannot legislate personal morality. Yet it is also true that the tranquillity of society demands legislation for crimes against humanity and the state. Webster defines law as “rules of conduct enforced by a controlling authority.” History provides examples of humanitarian legislation that changed the climate of moral opinion. There was a time when the respectable and religious element of society tolerated child labor. But the legislation pioneered in England by such evangelical humanitarians as the Earl of Shaftesbury stopped this evil, and today child labor is generally recognized as morally indefensible. When Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation and when the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted, there were those who defended slavery as morally permissible. Now, however, not even in areas most deeply committed to segregation would human slavery be defended. Measures designed to protect the individual helped change the climate of moral opinion about an evil that had already been on the conscience of many.

January 31 is World Leprosy Sunday. (See page 30.) Compassion for millions of fellow human beings afflicted by this dread disease is not debatable. Christ said, “Cleanse the leper.” There are very few lepers in the United States, and these few are well cared for. Most lepers are on the other side of the globe, eight to ten thousand miles away from this favored land. They must have our generous help. Yet a nearer test of Christian compassion relates to the problems on our doorsteps. To minister to lepers abroad, or to others in Africa, Asia, and the isles of the sea, while essential, will not fulfill our obligation to bind up wounds of the needy in our midst.

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Without departing from the zeal for the Gospel which is one of the glories of evangelicalism, we need to recover the realism with which our Lord spoke of discipleship. His teaching bristles with hard sayings. He spoke about seeking first not material prosperity but the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. He called the man who gave priority to things and based his life upon them a fool. He said that whoever would lose his life for His sake would find it and whoever would save his life would lose it. He called believers “the salt of the earth” and expected them to have an ameliorating effect upon the society in which they lived. He said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

God sent his Son to proclaim the Gospel. Therefore we must proclaim it. God sent him to do works of love and mercy. Therefore we must do works of love and mercy. God sent him to the Cross. Therefore our lives must bear the marks of the Cross. To witness to the saving truth in Christ is the obligation of every believer. But it is not their only obligation. One of Jesus’ most poignant sayings is the question, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?”

Christian compassion is a matter of the heart. Yet it is more than emotion. It is the expression of full commitment of all we have and are to the Lord who gave himself for us. Christian compassion is love in action on behalf of others. To the extent that it is not manifest in the believer’s life, the believer has failed his Lord in not keeping the first and great commandment and the second, which is like unto it. Failure in compassion betokens an inadequate view of the very heart of Christianity, which is Christ’s self-giving for a lost world. “By this we know love,” said the beloved disciple, “that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if anyone has this world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” John is speaking within the Christian community, but our Lord’s parable of the Good Samaritan warrants the widest application of his words.

When all of evangelicalism learns to match its zeal for the proclamation of the Gospel and its shining record of good works abroad with active compassion for the alleviation of injustice and human deprivation at home, it will move forward in a resurgence of power. Those who proclaim sound doctrine cannot escape the test of reality. Evangelicalism is not exempt from Jesus’ criterion, “By their fruits you shall know them.” Not all fundamentals are doctrinal. If the fundamental of compassion has sometimes been lacking in evangelical life and practice, let it be restored, even though to restore it may be costly.

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Is Fifty Cents Too Much?

Mental retardation afflicts one out of ten American children. It affects those who have it and those who have to care for the afflicted. And one of its tragic aspects is that in many cases it need not have occurred.

Many babies who become mentally retarded are born with a disorder of body chemistry. Formerly it was impossible to diagnose this condition, and the victims were doomed to live abnormally. This has changed. Medical science has devised a fifty-cent test that may be given shortly after birth of a baby. If the test reveals the phenylketonuria (PKU) chemical disorder, a corrective diet enables the baby to grow and develop normally. But the test and diet must be employed before brain damage occurs.

As yet only three states require by law the use of this test. Let every Christian parent, every Christian physician, and every minister of the Gospel act now to prevent this form of mental retardation. Prospective parents must be alerted to the problem and urged to insist upon this test for their babies. Letters about it might well go to state legislators.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ applies to the whole man. Jesus, the Lord of life, who healed the sick and raised the dead, wants us to show concern just as he would, were he on earth now.

T. S. Eliot

The death of Thomas Stearns Eliot on January 4, 1965, reminds us that the number of this century’s great living writers is being inexorably reduced by age. In recent years the English-speaking world has marked the passing of several Nobel Prize winners and other distinguished men of letters. In adding the name of T. S. Eliot to this list, we pause to consider his contribution to poetry and to life.

Eliot’s work falls into two phases—that preceding and that following his affirmation of faith in Christ in about 1927. The poems of his early career depict the starkness of man’s isolation. In both “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and “The Waste Land,” Eliot seemed to be reaching out for some identifiable relationship with the universe, some means of communication. Instead Prufrock found that “it is impossible to say just what I mean!” And Tiresias spoke of the intolerable ennui that envelops life in the “Unreal City” where the only questions are, “What shall we do tomorrow?/What shall we ever do?” By the time that “The Hollow Men” began their lament, it was obvious that Eliot’s despair had begun to evoke evidences of a sickness unto death.

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But with “Journey of the Magi” and “Ash-Wednesday,” the poetry and plays began to show that, like the Magian, Eliot was “no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,/with an alien people clutching their gods.” Through the mysticism of “Ash-Wednesday” shone the revelation that a Prufrock’s inability to communicate can be changed when the Word is listened to, when we find “our peace in His will.”

Eliot’s later poetry, his dramas, his literary and social criticism, reflect his commitment to faith in Jesus Christ. Indeed, Professor R. P. Blackmur has written of him, “It may be said that there sprung up a whole literary generation whose only knowledge of Christianity was what they got by reading Eliot.”

In the passing of T. S. Eliot, the world has lost a solemn voice for God, but one that through his great art will continue to speak to us.

Narcotic Addiction Among The Affluent

A cheerless monotony of existence. A vague hope for challenge and something worth living for. A shadowy groping for reality and the meaning of life. An impetuous grasping after pleasure and inner satisfaction. Then descent to depravity and disintegration.

So runs the piteous tale of many a narcotics addict. There is rising concern in New York City—which contains perhaps half of the nation’s some 200,000 addicts—and elsewhere over the increasing number of young people from substantial and educated families who are using marijuana, barbiturates, and addictive narcotics. The affluent users of narcotics are commonly found in university neighborhoods and in the suburbs.

People are shaking their heads and asking why. A New York psychiatrist says it springs from affluence itself: “When a young man can raise his finger and mama gives him a Jaguar, things are too easy. He has never been tested in real danger.” “Never having been tested, they are distasteful of themselves and are trying to alter with drugs their personalities.” Marijuana smoking is increasingly becoming a status symbol. The habit is often begun at parties. Though non-addictive, it is illegal, for it is often the first step to narcotic addiction. For “kicks” or relief from tension, some begin with cough medicines high in codeine, barbiturates, and benzedrine—these being popular at suburban teen-age parties. It is estimated that some 35 per cent of marijuana users will become narcotics addicts. If one eventually gets “hooked” on heroin, he will kill, if necessary, to obtain the drug.

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A twenty-five-year-old secretary interviewed by the New York Times said that in the course of her addiction she has lived with several men, has married addicts twice and had two children, has stolen and turned to prostitution, for which she was arrested. Her use of heroin rose to the point where it cost her about $35 a day. Another woman told the police that she hoped for the day when they would tell her that her addicted son was dead: “I have a daughter. She’s still O.K., but I’m afraid for her. Tell me he’s dead.”

Governor Nelson Rockefeller has called for “a massive effort” to wipe out drug addiction. The cost of his program has been estimated at some four million dollars. He declared: “The nature of the affliction is such that the rate of cure is tragically low. To date there is frankly not sufficient knowledge of the causes of the disease, nor is there any known remedy. To find the answer will take a massive effort in the laboratory, the hospital and the clinic. It will require Federal, state and local government cooperation, and community and other voluntary efforts.” Rockefeller also said he would recommend legislation to bar the sale to children without prescription of habit-forming medicines that have incidental narcotic effect.

Dr. Robert William Baird, who runs a New York clinic for addicts, advocates: periodic compulsory examinations of all grade, high school, and college students to detect addicts early; minimum fifty-year sentences for non-addict “pushers”; tough search-and-seizure and wiretapping laws affecting narcotics cases, including opening of diplomatic pouches.

But ultimate remedies for a deplorable situation point even beyond law and medicine to divinity. Drug addiction usually springs from a poverty of spirit, which remains unrequited by material wealth. For the materialist it must be disquieting to discover that drug addiction can be a result of an unchallenging affluence. Man is created for sterner things than hedonistic indulgence—a betrayal of his very spirit. He needs a challenge for his whole being. Browning framed it well with the words: “How very hard it is to be a Christian!” There yet remain the Christian frontiers which bring confrontation with cannibals in New Guinea and martyrdom in Ecuador. But within our own borders even the affluent American faces frontiers of the heart in which he engages the world, the flesh, and the devil. There is the exhilaration of the thrill of conquest, and also the peace of God’s mercy in defeat. There is a joy in the Spirit of such intensity at times as to necessitate a Petrine denial of drunkenness with wine.

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The ultimate preventive of drug addiction is the Gospel. The Church’s arm must be lengthened and made stronger to penetrate society ever more profoundly with the message that the Saviour has come—and with him life more abundant.

A Discerning Award

News comes from Scotland that the Rev. Tom Allan has been awarded the St. Mungo Prize by the city of Glasgow. This honor, in the form of a medal and a thousand pounds, is given every three years to the person who during that period is considered to have done most for the good of the city. Allan, who is forty-seven, took over a moribund church in the business district in 1957 after a stint as organizer of the Tell Scotland movement. When a severe heart attack during a visit to Miami led to his resignation last spring, his was one of the largest and most flourishing congregations in the country. Glasgow’s civic chief, Lord Provost Peter Meldrum, said that Mr. Allan had become minister, friend, and adviser not only to his parishioners but to many others irrespective of religious persuasion. His adult education classes and monthly evangelistic meetings attracted men and women from all walks of life.

The only city motto known to many Glaswegians is that which appears on their municipal buses: “Let Glasgow flourish.” That this is more than the mere wish for commercial prosperity is indicated by the unexpurgated and still official version of the motto: “Let Glasgow flourish through the preaching of the Word and the praising of His Name.” By their discerning award to Tom Allan, the city fathers remain loyal to the historic tradition which acknowledges that true prosperity cannot be measured in terms of worldly success, and that a full supply of bread is not the answer to man’s deepest need.

Hansen’S Disease: A Continuing Problem

The designation of Sunday, January 31, as World Sunday for Leprosy Sufferers faces us with one of the most ancient and persistent of health problems. It is estimated that this disease, so greatly feared from time immemorial, still afflicts some 10–15 million persons. Yet treatment of leprosy is now wonderfully effective; among the marvels of modern medicine is the remarkable progress made in combating Hansen’s disease, as leprosy is also known.

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Whoever has visited a leprosarium sponsored by Christian missionaries will never forget the impressions not simply of hopeful treatment but also of spiritual devotion.

A few years ago the writer was in Taiwan, where Formosa’s “little woman,” Lillian Dickson, drove him to a prayer meeting at the leper colony outside Taipei. After the message, one of the elders arose and reminded members of The Leper Church that floods had inundated Formosa that week, and that as an expression of Christian love the lepers should provide a relief offering for the homeless victims. In their poverty these Christian leprosy victims gave a sacrificial offering for their Formosan countrymen.

A year ago the writer spent a night in West Cameroon at a leper settlement sponsored by the North American Baptist Conference at Mbingo. The 2,800-acre settlement, with 450 self-supporting patients, also administers twenty-five branch clinics with 2,000 outpatients. The hospital facilities are in such demand that lepers with resorbed hands and feet were gladly spading the earth in preparation for a new wing to accommodate thirty-two additional beds. The Mbingo leprosarium desperately needs a hydro-electric power plant to illuminate the entire settlement and replace the two-horsepower plant now providing emergency lighting for Dr. Eugene Stockdale’s residence and nearby operating room. Crippled lepers would willingly cut, shape, and install the light poles, were the $10,000 required for the power plant forthcoming.

In Korea, Dr. Howard F. Moffett and his staff minister to 600 patients in Taegu Leprosarium, a work sponsored by the United Presbyterian Commission on Ecumenical Mission and Relations. Of the patients, about seventy are children seventeen years old or younger, and at least forty are orphans or abandoned waifs.

The American Leprosy Mission maintains a lively interest in scores of worthy projects around the world. We have mentioned but three with which we have some personal familiarity and which would welcome interest and support on World Sunday for Leprosy Sufferers and also thereafter.

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