Wednesday, June 8, 2011

On Fixing Things

Posted by Tim

One particularly cold night during my time at Cedarville University, I walked towards the exit of the student center and saw a girl on the other side of the glass doors sitting on the ground holding her head. When the temperature drops below freezing, the brick surface just outside the building gets extremely slippery. It didn't take much effort on my part to recognize what had happened, and since she wasn't getting up very quickly I was worried she might be seriously hurt. Embracing my moment to be her knight in shining armor, I pushed through the double set of doors quickly and jogged over to her. But before I could get a word out of my mouth, my feet went out from under me, and I landed on my back. The force of the landing whipped my head back and cracked it on the brick...right next to my damsel in distress. As I rubbed the back of my head, I sheepishly asked her if she was alright. She looked confused, but I wasn't sure if that was because of a concussion or that I had the audacity to ask her about her well-being while I laid there in the same predicament. An instant later, another girl walked by, slipped, and dumped her coffee all over herself. Now there were three of us laying on the bricks.

I remember very vividly staring at my boots above my head the moment before I hit the ground and thinking to myself, oh...that's why she fell. Looking back, the most astonishing part to the whole story is that it never even occurred to me that I could end up next to her. Not only did I fail to help her, but I got myself hurt, and failed to prevent someone else from falling. Moreover, it could have been a lot worse. I was fortunate I didn't exacerbate the issue by kicking the poor girl in the head or landing on her when I slipped. I walked back to my dorm with a slight chuckle, minor whiplash, and a bruised ego...

We live in a neighborhood in which the majority of the residents grew up in generational poverty, which displays itself in symptoms like substance abuse, domestic violence, broken homes, neglected children, run down properties, and so on. While these issues exist elsewhere, they are often kept out of sight and thus out of mind. Here, they are evident the moment we walk out our door. As a result, when we have visitors or I describe my community to people outside of the neighborhood, I often get asked one of these two questions: "So what's the solution?" or "How do you fix it?"

Christians feel a sense of responsibility to respond to the brokenness of our world because of the good news of Jesus' Gospel. Centuries of social reform (establishing hospitals, education reform, and abolishing slavery come to mind) spearheaded by His followers stand as evidence to this calling. So it's only natural (or supernatural) that believers want to know how they can have a positive impact on the society in which they live. However, compassion and exuberance alone leave the Church severley under equipped to address the ills that plague our world.

We often identify a problem and rush in with the truth of Jesus without having the mind of Jesus. The King of Creation and the answer to all of our brokenness set aside all of His rights and privileges to become like us. Before He solved our problems Jesus made them His own. So God put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. And for 30 years He experienced humanity before He began to "minister." For 30 years He witnessed the best and worst of people. He participated in our victories and our failures, our laughter and our mourning. Jesus immersed Himself in our culture to the point that He not only knew our problems, but He knew us, and He knew us well. He knows us well.

How often can we say this about ourselves? When we want to help someone, are we willing to do what it takes to enter into their pain? Do we know the source of their joy and their sorrow? Or do we believe our words, or our money, or our wisdom are enough to fix them? Our Savior, who had infinite knowledge and resources at His disposal, gave us a model that was clothed in humility. Before we start solving everyone's problems, we ought to begin there.

...Otherwise we might find ourselves laying on the ice, holding the back of our heads, and wondering how we got there.

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