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To Help, or Not to Help?
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August 2, 2008                             


               TO HELP, OR NOT TO HELP?



Last week there was a significant story and for the first time in over two months the Spirit has moved me to post on my blog.  Before getting to the story let me step back and give a little background.


A little over two weeks ago The Washington Post published an amazing story called “The Impassive Bystander” (7/16/08).  In it the reporter, DeNeen Brown, recounted several incidents where people were in trouble but no one stepped in to provide assistance.  Now, these were emergencies, mind you, and many people were witnesses but did not even lift a finger to help, comfort, or even call 911.


The first case involved a security video showing a woman in the psychiatric ward of a hospital who had collapsed onto the floor right in front of the staff.  The best anyone could do for well over a half hour was to come by and kick her.  They just couldn’t be bothered.  The second circumstance recounted in the article received widespread media attention.  Two cars were drag racing down a public street in New England when one of them struck an elderly man who was crossing the street, injuring him critically.  None of the closest eyewitnesses so much as held his hand—although someone nearby did call for help. 


When interviewed, the local police chief questioned the morality and values of all Americans.  He was, of course, right on the money.  Some believe that it is human nature to hesitate in these circumstances.  I’ve experienced this myself.  I call it fear, and its author is the devil.


Last week, a misguided and lonely man burst into a Unitarian church in Tennessee and started firing a shotgun (“Police: Tennessee Shooting Suspect Called Unitarians Liberal,” AP story from 7/28/08).  Sadly, several were injured and two were killed.  One included a man who intentionally placed himself in between the gunman and congregants, thus sacrificing his life to save others.  He was a true hero who emulated Jesus Christ with his actions.


Contrast this with what happened at a conservative evangelical church in Colorado last December during a similar tragedy (“Gunman Killed After Opening Fire at Church,” CNN story from 12/9/07.  There, a woman who was a security guard at the church shot the man (who had killed several people at two locations already).  This woman had been a police officer with a background of being less than honest.  Not enough people of faith questioned her actions.


The one glimmer of hope in the Post’s “The Impassive Bystander” piece was the observation by an expert concerning the circumstance that overcomes humans’ natural hesitancy to become a good Samaritan: when one person goes to the rescue then the whole group tends to follow.


This fact was borne out during the Tennessee tragedy.  Bystanders at the church joined to tackle the shooter.  Some, including one who had earlier dove under some chairs with his family, became fearless upon seeing others risk their lives (see Newsweek/Washington Post "On Faith" blog post: “Under God: ‘A Whole Lotta Ugly’ in Church Shooting”).  That’s right.  It’s also human nature for “doing the right thing” to become infectious.  That’s God.


Only the goodness, love, compassion and mercy that are the essence of the Lord can spur human beings to help others, to make extraordinary sacrifices for their fellow man and woman.  To be selfless and bigger than themselves; to be heroes. 


The man at the church who offered himself up to protect others and the first person to tackle the gunman were leaders.  I pray that all Christians learn to lead like this, and that others will follow.


On the comment board of the previously mentioned blog post I noticed several disparaging statements about the Unitarian/universalist faith.  Some wrote things such as; they’re not “Christian,” the fact that many don’t accept the divinity of Jesus or the Holy Trinity.  This may be true.


However, I drew a positive distinction between the responses during the Tennessee shooting and the one in Colorado.  Jesus Christ stands for life and love.  All life is precious.  We are instructed in the Holy Bible to follow His example of laying down His life to save others.  It is this selflessness and total faith in our salvation in heaven that demonstrates to others that our faith is authentic. 


Indeed, this is key to preaching and spreading the gospel.  Others will want to be part of our “way” only when they see the truth and power that are different than anything else.  The thing that has been missing in their lives and that they have longed for.  It is this that ignites the power to change on a massive scale.


No matter what the circumstance, taking the easy way out and shooting someone, even when they are threatening your life, does absolutely nothing to build the kingdom of God.  It is beyond me why a megachurch with over a thousand supposedly Spirit-filled Christians would even need an armed security guard.


To those who differ I ask: if you believe in heaven why are you so afraid to die?  Heaven is the best place to be, the place that you want to go more than any other because Jesus is there, full on.  Protecting family members isn’t a good enough excuse either.  If you are Christian, presumably they are.  As painful as it might be to go the rest of your life without a loved one, we are promised by Jesus that we shall see them again.  Trying to tackle a killer with a gun, as opposed to shooting him, is precisely the type of sacrifice that He would expect of us.


Apparently, as flawed as the Unitarian faith may be some of them actually demonstrated more faith in God and heaven than that woman at the Colorado church.


I had an experience with a Unitarian believer in the earliest days of my walk with Jesus.  An old friend, Allison, was jobless and essentially homeless.  I allowed her to stay in my house off and on for about a month. 


We were both attracted to each other, but nothing happened.  Looking back, I find it interesting that we both had already been celibate for a long while.  During her stay, I showed her a movie about Jesus Christ to try to help her overcome her skepticism—and she was extremely moved.  I also attended her unitarian church in order to get her to go to mine.


I didn’t convert her; but our relationship was symbiotic, a two way street.  I can honestly say that she had a positive impact on my embryonic faith.  She helped me while I was helping her.  I disagree with much of the Unitarian approach.  Yet, I am positive that God was working through this woman.  Generally speaking, their beliefs are not completely inconsistent with scripture.  This one Unitarian, for instance, taught me to hold hands while saying grace.  She also introduced me to some of her Christian friends whose knowledge and stories touched me.


Allison and those heroes in Tennessee clearly demonstrated that they have a “measure of faith” (Romans 12:3), and this is all that is required.







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