This is the third post in a series that I wrote about in a post called who is my neighbor? series. I am reading who is my neighbor? by Wayne Gordon and exploring just one chapter a week. In addition, I hope to post on each Wednesday. The first post in the series can be found here: Neighbor 1: Hurting. (Sorry…still trying to shorten them! Hang in there with me!)
Chapter 3 answers the question with…‘My Neighbors Are Those Who Cannot Help Themselves’. And you may think…who is that? Who can’t help themselves? Gordon starts off with a great (yet horrifying) story of Pompeii following the eruption of Mount Vesuvius – slaves that were chained behind fences…defenseless to what was going on around them. Then, he goes on to the devastation of Katrina. How a large percentage of people couldn’t head the warnings to leave new Orleans due to lack of transportation. So, how many of us would be willing to spare room in our cars for carless, low-income, strangers to sit, not to mention to bring some of their belongings? Seriously….would we have even thought about it in our hurry to get our stuff and leave the city? Gordon shares a story about how one church did just that. How encouraging it was to hear!
In the story of the Good Samaritan, he was probably tired from his travel and looking forward to getting home. He may have been shy or socially awkward. He could have had a very important business meeting to get to. He may have been focused on other things or distracted by stuff life presents. Yet, he stops and cares for this battered man….and ensures his safety, care and comfort for an extended time. Yet, we don’t even notice in our own self-absorption.
This requires a total change in world-view. A view of putting others first, ahead of ourselves. A view of laying judgements aside and seeking understanding. A view through the eyes of Jesus.
As a society, we have allowed our hearts to become hardened to these people who need our help. To simply write all of them off as lazy is to ignore the call of the gospel to love our neighbors. It’s to abandon the responsibility that those of us who have been given much have to give to those who have been given little….
In Ezekiel 16:49, the prophet elaborates on the sin of the city of Sodom, writing, “[They] were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.”
Wow….who does that sound like today? We sound like a modern-day Sodom. This needs to change!!! We have a Biblical obligation to care for the people who can’t help themselves ~ The ones who truly can’t pull up their own boot straps. The ones who have tried, but find the straps get cut as they are pulling hard. The ones who are tired and weary of trying. The ones who are depressed and giving up.
I think about people who don’t have the resources that Louis and I have. We are truly blessed to have a network of friends and family who are…doctors, vets, lawyers, social workers, mechanics, carpenters, architects, real estate agents, financial advisors, police officers, etc. These friends are just a quick phone call away. Louis and I have quality education and have had life experiences that have taught us how to handle situations….and people who have walked us through difficult times. What about folks who don’t have this kind of network? or don’t have the education or life experience to handle what life throws their way? and they don’t know anyone who has? These are people who can’t help themselves.
I have friends in my community who I also have to go to for help…who show me the ropes, who teach me another way, who keep me real. I am forever indebted to them. We all have something to bring to the table. We all have a lot to learn. For there are many times I can’t help myself….and need some help….desperately.
Lord, you say in the Word that we will be judged as we judge others here on Earth. Forgive us for our judging attitudes and replace it with loving, merciful view of others. It’s so easy to say – ‘Let the government take care of that issue.’ or ‘Why don’t they just go get a job?’ Lord, this is so complex! It’s not that easy. But, in you Lord, all things are possible! Help us to understand the complexities and provide us with the wisdom to help solve the issues that stand in the way. Lord, we don’t need or want to be arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. We need to be filled with humility and concerned over what concerns you. Show us how to do that. Break our hearts for what breaks yours…and may we do it on an individual level and a corporate level in our churches. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.