"Passing by on the other side?"
"In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?" The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." " (Luke 10:30-37, NIV)
When Jesus told this parable over two thousand years ago, he was addressing the question of a "lawyer" who was trying to take the easy way out by insinuating he did not know who his neighbor was. Jesus pointed out that whosoever was in need that he came across was indeed his neighbor, and that we should do whatever is in our power to aid that person.
Unfortunately nowadays, a lot of folks prefer to just "pass by" when someone needs help, leaving them to whatever plight that afflicts them. Indeed, scripture tells us:
"Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold," (Matthew 24:12, NIV)
But surprisingly, a large number of the people who are unwilling to help are the ones whom you would expect to be amongst the first to come to another's aid.
And it's not in the manner you would think either.
We hear of the problems and travails that others encounter in their lives, the difficulties that they must endure, and it often reminds us of our own problems and trials. But a growing number of "christians", rather than come alongside another, simply elect to keep their distance. They ensconce themselves in a "protective bubble", never risking to venture very far outside of it for fear of personal inconvenience. To many, if someone is telling others of their trials, they are complaining and they simply do not want to hear it.
Now, while I don't like someone who complains incessantly any more than anyone else, there are times when someone in trouble needs to talk to another about it. In a Fundamental Baptist church I used to go to back about 6 years ago, a common (and bad) practice when people needed someone to listen was that members of the church used to tell them "walk by faith, not by sight." This, while being a piece of scripture and very wise counsel on Paul's part, came across as "If you tell another of your troubles, you don't trust God and aren't walking by faith. " In short, it was their version of saying "I don't want to hear it," and ended up ruining an important piece of scripture for me.
They forgot to read the verses BEFORE and AFTER it:
"For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." (2 Corinthians 5:4-8 NIV)
Paul acknowledged that we desire to be with the Lord and away from this troubled life. The scriptures here are not meant to muzzle, but to encourage; that we will be with the Lord, and that we are to trust in him. But far too often, this verse is used to silence people, and that is NOT what it is intended for.
To be fair, there have always been complainers, and always will be. Moses had to deal with 3 million of them for 40 years in the desert while they wandered (actually, while they mostly camped and sat there). And you can bet that there were times that poor Moses felt like his head was going to blow right off his shoulders and soar into orbit.:
"Then Moses cried out to the LORD, 'What am I to do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.'" (Exodus 17:4, NIV)
The point is: incessant whining is one thing, but when someone is genuinely in need and is suffering, we are NOT to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to them. Scripture tells us:
"Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits." (Romans 12:15-16, KJV)
"Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God." (2 Corinthians 1:4, KJV, emphasis mine)
"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2, KJV)
We all face trials, and these trials are designed to refine us. But nowhere in scripture does it say that we are to abandon those that are undergoing trials; indeed we should be coming alongside them. As a point of fact, it may not even be that they are undergoing a trial so much as the Lord is providing an opportunity for YOU to minister unto them. But if we shirk that responsibility and keep our distance, then we are committing an act of spiritual cowardice that can result in someone suffering alone, with no one to aid them. And while it is true the Lord can send another, are we really going to spend our time here picking and choosing which assignments from the Lord we will take, and which we will not?
Think for a moment if Jesus had done that at the Garden of Gethsemane.
I am not saying that we need to be a cadre of psychiatrists and social workers; that is not necessary. But people when they are in trouble or in the midst of some awful things going on don't necessarily want answers or a solution; they want to know that someone CARES about them, and cares that they are going through a hard time. To come alongside someone and put an arm around them, or to give a genuine word of encouragement is often worth a lot more than trying to analyze their problems. People need to know that someone is concerned for them, not a "here's what to do to solve it."
Consider a doctor, for a moment. It doesn't matter if that doctor had the cure for every ailment in the world; if his bedside manner is cold and he just spits out facts at a patient, that doctor isn't being a very good doctor. For an example, consider the main character on the show "House"; he ma be a good doctor and be able to cure people of their ills, but would YOU want him treating you?
Imagine if God treated us like that!
Instead, God shows us an example in scriptures:
"When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean. Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, "See that you don't tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." " (Matthew 8:1-4, NIV)
Jesus didn't HAVE to touch him; he could have just simply cured him with his words. but Jesus knew that this poor man most likely hadn't had contact with another human soul for several years. (This isn't to say that God wants us to go touching lepers to see if we get infected!!!) Jesus touched him to show him that even though he knew he could have cured him with a word, that he cared enough about him, that he LOVED him enough to touch him, to break through the stigma that surrounded him and that Jesus didn't care who thought what about it.
In short, Jesus showed the Leper that he wasn't an inconvenience, but that God cared enough for him to touch him AND make him clean.
To bring this all to a point: instead of feeding people platitudes and going to the other side of the road like the priest and the levite, we need to come alongside those that need someone in their time of weakness or despair. Even if all we do is offer a cup of cold water, that is often more than what people in need are looking for.
After all, we've all been there. And I'm sure we would feel burned if someone went to the other side of the road when we needed them. And in these final days when the church seems to be mesmerized and not doing what they should to spread the gospel of the Lord, can we afford to be distant from people? If we treat our fellow brethren this way, how are we then treating those that do not know Christ?
Think about it.