Monday, December 28, 2009

Your Problem Is...

So in a matter of hours it's all over. First, we are warned by the Christmas ads in the newspaper or on TV that we have only days or (panic!) hours to save. Then, as soon as Christmas is actually kaput for another year, we get all sorts of year-end and New Year ways to save.

Meanwhile, other folks go out thinking about saving (cue the trumpets, stars and fireworks) YOU!

On our Christmas day walk as we passed this little "how to" pamphlet tucked into the latch of the street light switchbox, my gut reaction kicked in. I finally figured out what these impersonal bits of strategically placed litter have to say. It comes down to several basic messages all under the umbrella of this family:

1. There's something wrong with you.

2. Without knowing you, I know what's wrong with you.

3. You don't know what's wrong with you.

4. I'm going to tell you what's wrong with you.

5. Your problem is, you're not me.

6. Because, obviously, there's nothing wrong with me. Now.

I have no doubt that the little pamphlet will paint a brief picture of the fallen state of humanity that condemns us all to death and hell, a loving God who sent his Son to die in our place and redeem us through the cross, and the simple sinner's prayer that accepts Jesus as savior and "asks Jesus into" the suppicant's heart. A few Bible passages will be quoted.

But by offering the prescription in the complete absence of dialog, examination and diagnosis requested by the patient, the writer and poster of the pamphlet acting as physicain may unwittingly be sending a very condescening message, providing an answer to a question that the other person is not asking, actually doing more harm than good.
Physician, do no harm. Physician, heal thyself.

The pamphlet, to another person, may look much like the graffitto (singular) scrawled onto the side of another stainless steel box a mile away. It's like a poke in the eye by somebody who doesn't even know they did it. Except, in this case, they intended to.

Does that swirly black paint convey a cogent message to you? Does it make any sense? Does it answer any of your questions?

Does it ask, "Where does it hurt and how can I help?"

From stem to stern, Scripture instructs us to: 1) Love God. 2) Love our neighbors as ourselves. But we cannot love people we do not actually know because love requires action, not a passive predisposition. Love is not a noun unless it is first a verb--an active voice verb, no less. It has no life unless it has legs.

How can we give any witness to the love of God if that witness is not given in human love and at the appropriate time and in an appropriate way? If that is true, how can we give any witness at all to people we have not made any effort to know or care about even as we summarily judge them? Before we ever speak, it's very wise to first look and listen.

We could save a lot of paper, spread a lot of love and clean up the place at the same time.

All by loving our neighbors as ourselves. Somebody very wise and holy used to talk about that, lived it too.



No comments: