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Day 33 of Lent: iHelp: Double dare?

March 19, 2013

Verses for reflection: Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Luke 14: 25-27

Have you ever witnessed a violent confrontation or loud argument  that left you uncomfortable? Did you ever pass by a person with his hand out on the street and feel guilty for having so much?

We were traveling peacefully down an Interstate one day when suddenly the car in front of us pulled sharply onto the shoulder. The driver flung his door open wide and jumped on the pavement in an apparent rage. I could see there was also a passenger.

The driver reached into the car, pulled out something, and threw it on the blacktop. There was a puff of smoke. Then I could no longer see anything in the rear-view mirror.

P1010898

You may not feel it is fair to leave the story hanging there but that is all I could see.

But I wondered whether we should have done something. If so, what? How much risk is reasonable when you have three small children in the car (as we did at that time)?

This leads me to a larger everyday question: in a world crying out with need, what can I do? When should I get involved?  When should I respond to a panhandler on the street? When should I stick my neck out? Intervening could create an opportunity for more violence and possible crime (against us).

Jesus was considered crazy by his contemporaries and even his family. Mark 3:21 says “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’

When is helping foolhardy? When is it Christ-like? What is the likely outcome? Is there a way to reach out wisely—we AREN’T God, afterall.

I can no longer hide behind the excuse of “three small kids” but I still have excuses:  a mortgage, we’re getting older, we’re (too) comfortable?

The “double dare” in my title is not just a childish taunt, but a nudge to (myself included) take responsible risks to help those in desperate need. If you have children at home, are there mission projects that can involve both children and parents?

My photo above is just an illustration for my “highway” story, but perhaps the signage can be applied to situations of  getting involved without taking foolhardy risks. One sign says “Proceed with caution” and the other “Passage through tunnel by escort.” Helping through organized programs (such as a Clothes Closet my church runs) is one way to minimize risk and also to work as small communities to respond to issues whether it is violence, bullying, hunger or poverty.

College students and people from our church are sticking their necks out just a little to help hungry children through a back pack program, where kids who get free or reduced lunches through the week are sent home simple foods and meals for over the weekend, when they may not get much in the way of nutritional food.

Another way is by participating in community-wide thermal shelter program (or other shelters) for homeless persons through the winter months. This is probably a wiser way to help than giving guilt money on the street. Here is information on our local program.

Action: How will you stick your neck out in response to Christ’s call to be my disciple.”

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