This is part 5 of my series focusing on the World in Crisis. Unfortunately, our tendency as humans is to externalize problems and blame others or blame the system. In my first four blog posts, I’ve tried to steer you in the opposite direction. I urged you to look inward and take a more personal look at what’s happening in the world. You shouldn’t be quick to say “It’s not my problem” … because it is! Change starts with learning to take some ownership. Change begins with you!
Think on that a bit. That’s actually an encouraging statement. If change started with others, we might be waiting a long time. But if change starts with you and me, then there’s a chance we can do something about it! In my previous posts, we explored four sources of crisis. First, we discussed the Problem of Hope. This is a heart problem, and without hope we don’t even try. Second, we examined the Problem of Ideas. This is a mental problem that can destroy our ability to think creatively, solve problems, and take risks. Next, we explored the Problem of Logistics. This is a problem of mobility and the transportation systems that enable us to move resources around. We have tremendous excess capacity and abundant resources, which are trapped and unused. Lastly, we discussed the Problem of Lukewarmness. This is a problem of the will. It’s the weak handshake, the timid attempts, and lack of resolve.
Each of these is something you and I can do something about … and together we can make a bigger difference than by ourselves. Let’s look further at this attitude of “It’s not my problem” by taking a quick look at the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. In this parable, a lawyer asks Jesus, “What should I do to have eternal life?” That’s a very personal question, and one we should all be asking. Jesus replies to the man by asking him to quote from his own knowledge of the Law in Scripture, so he recites “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus was pointing out that the answer to his question is found within the context of two relationships: the relationship a person has with God; and the relationship a person has with his neighbor. This lines up with my earlier posts. We cannot blame others! Truly loving God is an action. It means doing it with all we have. And it’s not dependent on others. The lawyer in the parable may have been ok with the first part of Jesus’ answer but wasn’t so certain about the last part of the Scripture and went on to question Jesus further. He asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” And Jesus went on to tell him the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan who came to the aid of a man who was attacked and left in a ditch by robbers. Before the Good Samaritan stopped, others had passed by and determined he wasn’t their problem.
In this parable, Jesus was illustrating that eternal life is not a private, isolated or detached dynamic. On the contrary, eternal life is a dynamic, active, loving relationship with God that’s lived out in a loving relationship with your neighbors—even if your neighbors don’t love you back.
After many decades of considerable “overseas” mission interest, there’s a bit of a trend in recent years for Christians to define their neighbors as those who live next door, or those in their own nation. The reality is that it’s both. A neighbor is anyone God chooses to place in our path in the course of our daily lives, whether through our business dealings, our holidays, our leisure, our online activities, or a story about a person(s) that resonates with us on the news. The Samaritan was likely a traveler on business; he was probably a busy man with somewhere to be. Yet he proved to be a compassionate person who sacrificed time and money to help someone in need. He opened his heart, sacrificed his time and resources, and showed mercy.
I hope you’re now understanding that your neighbor is more than just the person who lives next door. And that this is not just a call to be “neighborly,” but begs you to ask the all-important question: “What do I need to do to have eternal life”? And if you are feeling God’s pull on your heart in the slightest, you are also probably now uncomfortable saying, “It’s not my problem”.
So, what can you do about it?
Let’s take a moment to discuss this. It’s probably not too much of a struggle to help out your physical neighbor, or a friend who lives nearby or even across the country. However, If your neighbor is an acquaintance or stranger in your community or your city, you may need some help. And that help may likely come from others in the community or city that God is also calling to help their neighbors. But just realize that there may be a communication and coordination challenge that needs to be worked out to link all of you together.
Further, if your “neighbor” is someone across the world that is in need, then you may need to partner, coordinate, and connect others who may hold the necessary parts and pieces to bring help to that person. Like in the Good Samaritan story, the Samaritan needed a cooperative innkeeper (verses 34-35) who could be trusted with the money he offered to care for the person in need. The challenge of meeting global problems may be more complex but remember, you can no longer say, “It’s not my problem.”
Never lose sight of the fact that as a Christian who wants to inherit eternal life, you need to love God and love your neighbor. And the very nature and essence of loving God and having passion for Christ is lived out in having compassion for the world.
I want to end with one more point. Loving our neighbors as an expression of our love for God can sometimes pose large challenges. You must understand that the world challenges we face, the suffering of people, and the injustices that are carried out by governments, companies, and institutions, take effort and coordination to address. Whether local challenges in your town or global challenges in distant places, loving neighbors in these situations requires all of God’s people working together. The wonderful reality is that more than ever in history, we have the tools, technology, and opportunity to respond to these needs.
And that sets the stage for my next blog on why solutions to this scenario are entirely doable!
You and I cannot stand by as bystanders saying, “It’s not my problem.” Our identity in Christ means that our DNA as Christians calls us to care and to act with all of our hearts, mind, soul, and strength.
The crisis in this world continues, deepens and destroys … and will do so as long as we collectively stand by, do nothing, and hope someone else is figuring it all out. Start a conversation with God that begins something like this, “It’s my problem, and by God’s grace, because I love Him with all my heart, and He loves me, I will do my part. Father, show me what that part is.”