After dealing with poverty over the last two posts (see “Haiti: What’s Our Response?” and “Unity and the Poor”), I had intended to move to a different topic today. But in addition to continuing to read Richard Stearns’ excellent “The Hole in Our Gospel”, I ran into these sobering words from Proverbs this morning:
“If you do nothing in a difficult time, your strength is limited. Rescue those being taken off to death, and save those stumbling toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we didn’t know about this,’ won’t He who weighs hearts consider it? Won’t He who protects your life know? Won’t He repay a person according to his work?” Proverbs 24:10-12 (HCSB)
The fact is we do know what is going on in the world; we are aware. Never before has the world seemed so small. We have up to the minute newscasts available to us from almost every part of the world. Television, newspapers, magazines and the Internet put pictures and video right in front of our face. It is not that we are unaware of the poverty and evil in the world, it is simply that we do not care. What other conclusion can be drawn from our lives?
The above passage in Proverbs calls us to action in difficult times. There is strength in action; lack of action produces, and signifies, weakness. I do not want to stand before the Lord in weakness; I want to demonstrate the strength of His power through one willing to be used. How dare we pretend to be unaware of the plight of the poor, the homeless and the victims of war and genocide? Jesus said that the peacemakers will be blessed (Matthew 5:9). Yet we choose sides in every conflict and pray that the “right” side will win. There is no right side in war. There is only death and peace; those are the two actual faces of war. Pray for peace, pray for the enemy, pray for the lives lost and otherwise permanently affected by the violence. In addition, take action! Do something in the face of difficult times. We each have different gifts and capacities to help, we all have different circumstances and situations, but we can all do something. If you cannot help a hundred people, then help ten. If you cannot help ten people, then help one. We all can help one. This is how differences are made: one person, one precious human life, at a time.
You have probably heard the parable of the starfish before, but it is a relevant and helpful reminder to the problems we see in the world today:
“Once upon a time there was a philosopher who would walk along the beach every morning, thinking about how to help the world.One day as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a figure moving back and forth, rhythmically dancing to the day.
This gave him great pleasure, so he began to walk faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young woman and the young woman wasn’t dancing, but instead she was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
When he got closer he called out, ‘Good morning! What are you doing?’
The young woman looked up and replied with simple joy, ‘Throwing starfish in the ocean.’
The man looked puzzled and said: ‘I guess I should have asked why you are throwing starfish in the ocean?’
‘The sun is up and the tide is going out. And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.’
‘But, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can’t possibly make a difference!’ said the man.
The young woman listened politely. She then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea past the breaking waves and said with a smile…
‘… but I made a difference to that one’.” –Anonymous
Some of us have the power to change the world. All of us have the power to change the world for one person. Together we can do amazing things in difficult times. We will draw strength from each other as we work to take the love of Christ to those in pain and poverty. The call is clear; the mission is set. What will you do in these difficult times?