Wednesday, November 20, 2013
"Go and do the same"
Last spring as I approached the school one afternoon to pick up my children, I noticed a lot of commotion going on near the fence. In addition to the normal congestion of cars and minivans, I had to navigate around a large semi that had an animal carrier attached. After parking the car, I got out to see what was going on. A group of 20 children had gathered at the fence to watch the farmer unload his sheep into the pasture that sits right next to the school property. A ramp extended from the trailer into the pasture, and I began to watch as the sheep were unloaded. One by one, the sheep descended the ramp and entered the pasture. What was so delightful was how the sheep descended the ramp! Some sheep walked, some trotted, and some literally bounded down the ramp and leaped into the field! The children had their noses pressed to the fence and squealed with delight as each sheep entered the pasture in its own unique way.
And then there was a pause in the action. We all turned and looked to see what the hold up was. Slowly and carefully, the next sheep navigated down the ramp and eased into the field. This sheep was different. It was caked in mud and filth, its wool was heavily matted, and its left front leg was shorter than the others and dangled uselessly. Except for a few compassionate “awwwws” from some children, most of the crowd just watched in silence as the sheep limped along. Quickly, all eyes were back on the trailer and the squeals of glee started up again as another sheep leaped and bounded into the sunshine.
I couldn’t help but think how this was a picture of what often occurs within the body of believers. We are all sheep who have been saved by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, and experience freedom in Him. He has given each one of us a unique personality, and gifted us according to His will and plan for our lives. Each one of us is special and valued in His eyes. Life is not always popsicles and puppy dogs. Scripture tells us to expect trials and tribulation in this life (John 16:33, James 1:2) Sometimes the battle rages, and it feels like trench warfare…dirty, messy, painful, crippling. As I watched that mangy, crippled sheep hobble along, it was the silence in the group that struck me. There were a few compassionate “awws,” but mostly everyone just observed in an uncomfortable silence. All eyes were eager to get back to the next cute, prancing sheep coming down the chute, and the lame one was quickly forgotten.
How often do we treat battle-weary believers this same way? We see them struggling, but it makes us feel uncomfortable. We hesitate to engage for a number of reasons…we don’t know what to do/say, it may require our time, or we just assume that someone else is helping them. Sometimes it is hard to spot them. The mangy sheep had no ability to hide or cover its reality, but people tend to put on their Tony the Tiger masks and say that “life is grrrrreat!” The Lord doesn’t expect us to fix the problem, but He does call us to be people of compassion, comfort, and encouragement.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
“Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess. 5:11)
In Luke 10:30-35, we find the story of the good Samaritan. A man was been beaten and left for dead in the road, and both a priest and Levite saw him, but passed by on the other side. The Samaritan felt compassion. He went to him, dressed and bound his wounds, took him to an inn, and took care of him. Jesus asked which man in the story proved to be a neighbor. Luke 10:37 says, “The one who showed mercy toward him.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same.”
When we encounter a fellow believer who is struggling in the trenches that trials often bring, we need to engage…encourage them with Scripture, drop them a note, treat them to coffee or a meal, pray with them, be an armor-bearer. Remember how it felt when someone did this for you in the midst of a trial, and extend that to others. You may not be able to solve the problem, but you can be a Samaritan in their life at a time when they need it most.