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“911 or You!” Obadiah 1: 1-14 Key verse(s): 10-11: “Because of the violence against your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame; you will be destroyed forever. On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth and foreigners entered his gates you were like one of them.”
We are a people who love to watch. We watch the time, the sky, the road. We spend an inordinate amount of time watching television shows, videos, DVD’s, video games and, each other. In many ways we are made for watching. Our eyes are in front not on the side. We don’t even have to turn our head to watch things, everything we need to see, for the most part, is right in front of us. Our eyes take it in, our brain processes the image and supplies us with the appropriate action to accommodate the situation. Unfortunately, unlike in animals, what we see is not always appropriately responded to in the most timely or even responsible fashion. When an animal sees food, if hungry, it will eat until satisfied. If we see food we will most likely eat until it is consumed. If an animal sees danger, it will either attack or flee. If we see danger we have those same options. But, there is one added into the mix. We can always do nothing.
God created each of us to be distinct from the other “living things” of His creation. On the Sixth Day he also created man, a creature distinct from all other living things in that man possessed the innate ability to freely choose. Man was not driven by instinct. Man was motivated by will. This, as God foreordained from before time, would be both a blessing and a curse. Free will grants the freedom to work with God and His purposes as well as against Him. Choosing is a wonderful thing and one of the greatest blessings God has bestowed upon us. Choosing gives us flexibility, tremendous freedom and versatility. Of all God’s creation, man alone has the ability to find happiness in the midst of sorrow and reflection in the shadow of joy. Unfortunately, the ability to choose can also cause us to make wrong choices. Standing idly by while others suffer is one of those unfortunate choices.
In his book Who Cares? Rediscovering Community, author David Schwartz writes: “When my friend Gerald looked out his office window, he saw the woman about to jump off the bridge. She stood on the edge, wavering. Below her the Susquehanna River flowed rapidly around the bridge footings, carrying flood logs and debris over the dam and to the Chesapeake Bay . . . Gerald stood for a minute, frozen. What should he do? He seemed to be the only person who had spotted the woman from his vantage point one story above the street. Shaking himself into movement, he grabbed the telephone and started to dial the emergency number 911. Could the police and the ambulance and the crisis intervention team possibly make it there in time? What would the woman do when she heard the police sirens speeding to her rescue? As his fingers punched the numbers, he saw a city bus rounding the turn onto the bridge. The bus drove slowly along the edge of the right lane. As it neared the woman, he saw the front accordion door open. Then suddenly--almost too fast to see if his eyes hadn’t been riveted on the scene--the driver, in one continuous motion, stopped, leaned out of the open door, grabbed the woman’s arm from behind, and pulled her backward into his bus. My friend sat down, shaking slightly, and replaced the telephone receiver in its cradle. He thought about what he’d seen. And because he was a reflective person, he thought about what he had done. As he explained to me later, he realized that his response to the life-or-death situation of this stranger, this woman, had been to mobilize the complex human services system set up and ready to deal with such situations. That is what anyone would do, would they not? But the bus driver had responded completely differently . . . He had seen the situation and had immediately done something himself.” (Who Cares? Rediscovering Community, David Schwartz, pages 1,2)
When you and I see things happening to others, whether that be imminent danger or simply the fact that they need a helping hand, we have choices. We can respond with help or deny that help. Pushing the responsibility on others, whether that be government or our neighbor, is really a poor substitute for reacting boldly out of Christian love for those in need. We live in a society that has conditioned us to react from a distance, to withhold personal contact and avoid personal responsibility. Perhaps that’s the way the Edomites felt when they saw their brothers, the sons of Jacob, being invaded and put to the sword. Even though they were not part of the cause, they could have been part of the cure. They did not lift a hand, however, to take up a sword for Jacob. Maybe they thought others would do it. Whatever the case, their choice resulted in God’s condemnation and wrath. It is not only a sin to commit harm, it is also a sin to ignore it. May our love for others always motivate action not idle good will. If not us, then who?
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