Give a hand…To help? Or just greet?

As the story goes, a child was looking at a painting in a museum. An adult, the escort, waits patiently nearby.

The painting is of a dark night, stars but no moon. Inky black water reflects the scattered light of lifeboats here and there. In the background, the stern of a sinking ship is points at an unnatural angle above the water. The ships bow is gone, below the surface. The remaining lights of the liner still above water spread out on the scene… there are many in the water, only a few with life jackets.  Some are alive, still swimming – paddling in various directions.  Most no longer swim – faces chill, arrested death.

In the foreground is a lifeboat. Aboard it are a few souls in various states; From shrieking in panic, to weeping, to numbness and shock. One seems to be praying. Another stands facing the scene playing out nearer the sinking. One fellow is leaning overboard extending his hand to a swimmer who is reaching out… each bears a grimace. One is very tired, but willing. The swimmer seems to be failing, near to loosing consciousness…

The child turns to the escort and asks: “Are they just shaking hands or is he going to help that person into the boat?”

Do I give my hand in simple sterile greeting or am I ready and intend to actually help?

We are sure that when we begin to speak about making peace between God and men, the enemy will attack.

Conflict is normal.

Here is a way of understanding some of the biblical nuances:

“But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.” Jude 21, 22.

Within the framework of

“If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done?” Proverb 24:10-11

Should we have to ask? Who’s strength? Mine? And I realize that if I falter, it’s because I’m not “plugged in” to Jesus. Because all things are possible with God. Not me.

Faltering is normal for me. I need to get used to it. It’s not about me. It’s about Jesus.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

That last bit is how I can tell when I’m unplugged. I’m crying out: “Lord, I can’t do this.” And then I hear, “Okay, Let Me.”

Then there is that bit about denial “But we knew nothing about this…”

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17

Let go. Let God. Reach out and help. Or, Jesus isn’t living through me. The consequences are dire.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ Mt. 25:41-42

Here’s the thing, if all I do is offer my hand to the stranger in need as a greeting at Church? I’ll never have to worry about being challenged, or about being attacked. But If I step out, and actually try to help. If I’m willing to get messy — there are risks. Not only to me, but to my “good reputation.” The enemy will challenge me. And so I know I must be doing something right.

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