I think it’s called ‘blissful ignorance’ … that state in which we purposefully decide not to see something that is glaringly obvious. I suppose we all suffer from this in one way or another. Not being able to solve the world’s ills, we often just ‘do not know about them’. Occasionally something will be brought to our attention either by a friend who becomes interested in a cause, or by the appearance of a starving child on a television commercial, or perhaps by a hurricane that destroys a community. And even those things do not always open our eyes.
But if we meet people in our community and listen to their stories, we will become aware of the needs all around us. It can overwhelming as we consider our ability to help….or inability. It’s easier to be unaware, and I understand why most Christians turn their face away from the needy. And sometimes use the Bible to discredit those who are serving the needy – in such a way that they do not have to participate. Is that too broad of a statement? Is it too big of an indictment? I think it’s a big challenge for us if we choose to consider it.
For example, I was taught that it was a sin to place money in the Salvation Army bucket at the grocery store. This has always been a conflict in my heart. True enough, I do not believe some of the thing taught by the Salvation Army church. But I think if we took a good look, I agree with far more than I disagree. Still, I was told that if I gave to that bell ringer, that I was supporting a false religion and that was a sin. But the conflict in my heart was that the SA is housing and feeding needy people … and we weren’t. If anything we were sending funds somewhere else to take care of children in a home far away where we never even saw a face or knew a circumstance. The children in our own community did not receive any blessing from us. I’m preaching from Micah 6:6-8 this Sunday, and it is challenging me. We are to love mercy. How many times have I instructed someone to seek shelter at the SA, and at the same time believed it was wrong to give to the SA. Several years ago I gave up this line of thinking and decided that it was more merciful to help someone else do something that I was unable / unwilling to do, than it was to sit upon my perch and decry their religion.
But this post is not about tossing quarters in a red bucket … it is about our becoming aware of the needs that are all around us … and doing more than turning away from them. After visiting a man yesterday in a nursing home that falls far short of the level of service it charges for, I was reminded both of my blessings and the needs of others. There are things we simply cannot change. But is there a person for whom we could lighten the load…just one person?
Yesterday I met a terrified lady. I really cannot go into all the details, but let me tell you a little. She is younger than 30, with two small children, and her husband was killed four months ago. The home she was living in had a violent person in it, and her children had to be protected, so she moved out. The place she moved to, is insecure. The door doesn’t lock. And this week a crack addict lady moved in, along with her pimp. I really cannot describe to you the look in this lady’s eyes yesterday as she explained to me the situation and her desire to protect her children. What could she do? She couldn’t call the police. So I offered her shelter in our church building, but she contrived another plan and perhaps it worked. I hope I’ll talk to her again today to see. She has an apartment secured for Wednesday…so if she can just survive until then. But her rent will be such that she will struggle to make it. I told her I would help her with Christmas for her children … something that was on her mind.
It’s easier to be unaware. I also wonder how many people like this are all around us, but we never know it. I’m sure that the people I’ve met have made bad decisions in their lives that have placed them in precarious situations. And I think that’s why God calls us to mercy, and does not instruct us to only give what people deserve. I am certain that I do not want to receive what I deserve. So … what are going to do about it? Larry James asks the same question as he presents some sobering facts about poverty in America.
Thanks for reading! Have a super weekend!