Thank you for your prayers and kind words as we are on sabbatical. Kristi and I miss you all tremendously and it is fun to see many of you around town as we pop in and out. This has already been an encouraging time as I have time to read, study, write, relax, rest (I’m not so good at the resting part being type “A” and all, but I am trying), and enjoying even more purposeful time with the Lord. Plus, I get to spend some extra time with my best friend and wife, Kristi. That makes this time even more special. We so much appreciate this blessing. Thank you for caring for us in this way.
In one of my study times, I am still moving ever so slowly through the book of Ezekiel. In chapter 34 God has the prophet Ezekiel speak some condemning words to the leaders of Israel for not shepherding His people well. (I wrote on this to the leaders of our church and if you would like read it you can go to my blog here: https://messagefrommike.wordpress.com/2010/07/12/shepherd-well/ ) As well, God has some harsh words for the people of Israel as they apparently were not taking responsibility for each other and especially looking out for the poor.
As I was praying through this I was hit with how much our world tells us that others are really not our responsibility. We are encouraged to look out only for ourselves. We are told not to get involved. We are advised to keep to ourselves and so we pack our lives so full we don’t even have time to help others let alone think we are in anyway responsible to connect with others. We are so conditioned to focus on “ME” we can’t even think about “WE.”
Yet as I read the words in Ezekiel 34:17-22 other verses came to mind such as:
Galatians 6:2 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:10 10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Philippians 2:3-4 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
And did not Jesus say…
John 13:34-35 34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
John 15:12 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you
Yes it is our responsibility to help people who are hurting, struggling, or burdened in life. It is our God-given responsibility to do good to all people. It is our task to be thoughtful, concerned, and pay attention to the interests of others (not in a busy-body way, but the kind, courteous, hospitable way of knowing others so we can love better). Love is an action, and if the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords, the Most High and Holy Sovereign Creator of the Universe says this is “My command,” it should not be taken as a suggestion or ‘if we have time,’ it is our responsibility! Something we are held accountable to do.
We often think it is someone else’s job to help or care or reach out or connect, yet it’s all our responsibility. Sure the leaders/shepherds are responsible, but so is everyone else. Now, yes we need to find balance Philippians 2:4 takes that into account and validates our need to care for self, yet true balance means there is time to care for others.
For some of you this is a no-brainer, you do this all the time. For others it’s a bit of a struggle. For all of us living in a self-absorbed world it will take sacrifice and sensitivity to notice needs and seek to help. Let me encourage you to read the passage in Ezekiel, reread the verses above, and ask God who He wants you to take the responsibility to connect with. Don’t go at this as an item to check off and say you’re done, but as one of the responsibilities we all have as God’s people. Maybe it will even become a habit, a character trait. I wonder what kind of impact we can have if we would truly take this to heart. I know I’m challenged and even looking forward to who God will lead me to.
Taking Responsibility for others with you,