Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?”
That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out. “I took on the troubles of the troubled,” is the way Scripture puts it. Romans 15:1-3 The Message
On an early Monday morning a few weeks ago, I was taking my wife Bonita to the airport to fly to meet her girlfriends for a few days of fun time at the Washington coast. As I was loading her suitcase into the car, I summoned her to come and see, “Something strange is happening outside…you won’t believe it.”
A few drops of rain were falling—the first ones in weeks—just enough to make the pavement slippery in spots.
At the first stop sign in our subdivision, a bike rider sped by…out for a morning ride, no doubt. But a few blocks down the way in one of the small traffic circles we have in our part of town, the rider lay sprawled in the roadway. We immediately pulled over and offered our help. At least two other persons also stopped to see that the rider, a young man, was being attended to and then went on their way. Fortunately, that morning we had left early enough on our trip to the airport that we were able to stay with the rider until a friend came to attend to him.
That morning ours was a simple act of human kindness that any of us would be likely of offer if we encountered a similar need. “How can I help?” we would likely say. And, if our help was accepted, we would begin whatever it was discerned the person we were helping needed to have done. That morning our basic helping was to get the rider off the roadway, determine with him that his injuries were not serious enough to call 911, offer him anti-bacterial wipes to clean his scrapes and abrasions, and wait with him until his friend arrived.
In these verses from Romans, Paul points out that that’s the familiar role we as followers of Jesus often seek to take. We look after the good of people around us—out of human kindness, care and concern for others. But sometimes we are called to go further because we follow Jesus who didn’t look the other way when there was trouble at hand. Paul suggests here that helping persons who are troubled may not turn out to be easy or satisfying.
There is the offer of help we make and the helping we do if it is accepted. But then there is what is helpful itself. What if the help that is requested of us is not something we judge to be helpful? What are we to say and do then? For example, what if the person we are trying to help asks us to tell a lie on their behalf or take an action that does not fit within our values? We decline, of course, but then—is there any way to keep the conversation going? Here’s where offering a cold drink on a hot day or a hot one on cold day may help. Even a sincere compliment might change the direction of the conversation. It’s trying to find a way to keep the human connection open, like saying, “I’m here for you—I’d like to find a way to make your day go a little better.”
Loving God, you are always there to help us when we need help, even when we don’t know we need it. Forgive us when we don’t offer help to others or give help that is not helpful. Show us how we can grow in human kindness, love and helpfulness to others—including taking on the troubles of the troubled. Amen.