Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Time There for Every Purpose and for Every Work

Ecclesiastes 3:17.

Today I was driving as afternoon drew closer to evening.  It was still some time before darkness, but it was encroaching.  I observed a man feeling his way across a parking lot with one of those long sticks with red and white.  I wanted to stop and offer him a ride to wherever he was heading, but I did not.

Blindness is a condition that would leave me helpless.  But this man has obviously worked very hard to learn to find his way without the use of his eyes.  Sometimes the best way to help a person is to respect that person’s abilities.  There is a time to help, and a time not to help.

Day and night makes little difference to a blind man in terms of finding his way.  But to drivers it makes a big difference.  Such a  man finding his way could be in danger from those who cannot find their way in the darkness.  But he seemed to be on a known path and he still had time to reach his destination before the drivers’ limitations in the darkness would be a threat to him.

I often see people walking and wrestle with myself on account of not knowing whether to offer a ride or to assume that they are in need of the respect of distance.  I especially struggle to know this when I see an older person or other person having difficulty with each step.

It is sometimes hard to see a person struggling and to do nothing.  Yet sometimes this is the truly kind act.  Sometimes people need to be allowed to face their difficulties and to press on in faith to the very end.  A person should not be robbed of the experience of triumph at the end of a trial.

How can one know when it is right to do nothing?  The first sign is whether or not the person appears to be looking for assistance.  Another is whether or not a clear sign of danger can be observed.  Certainly the ultimate consideration is to put oneself in the other person’s situation, at least as far as one is able to imagine it.  From this perspective one can determine one’s own desires in the same situation.

Of course, another approach, especially when the perspective seems unclear, is simply to greet the person and give the opportunity for the person to ask for assistance if desired.  A simple greeting such as “Hi there.  How are you doing today?” could allow for an indication to be given by the other person.  For example, if the person says, “Oh, my joints are aching so badly that I just don’t know whether I can take another step,” would seem to be very clear.  On the other hand, the person may say, “Oh, my joints hurt like crazy, but I keep pressing onward and I’m nearly there.”  This leads to quite a different conclusion.

Yet if one is not certain, polite and respectful inquiry as to whether assistance is desired is rarely received poorly.

Love, that is, agape, is always in season.  Love always leads a person toward the right action.  As St. Paul shares:

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

I once had a prostitute get into my car when I stopped to examine my map.  She got in and began to offer me things that I could not accept from her.  She said that she needed money for bread and milk.  When I offered to buy those for her she said that she could not accept charity.  I asked her if she knew how the Bible uses that word.  I then explained this Bible passage to her, explaining that charity is God’s love at work in a person so that the person acts with that love and concern for others.  I then bought her lunch for herself and her baby and drove her home.  As we drove she also explained that she had a legitimate job as an exotic dancer.  She was proud of her ability to earn a living for herself and her baby and she pulled up her blouse to show me what a nice body she had.  I simply agreed and continued telling her about the love of Jesus and the better way that He purchased for us with His own life.

I do not know what happened with this young lady, but she did express a need for help and when she heard that the motive for giving help freely was the love of God, she gladly received both the food needed for the bellies of herself and her baby, as well as the bread of heaven for her spirit.

Yes, there is a time for every purpose and for every work.  And God’s love guides us to know when.

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