A number of years ago, Israeli television showed a rather disgusting commercial for a clothing chain. It involved a young man sitting in a cafe. His attention is immediately arrested by a very attractive lady walking past. She is provocatively dressed and strides in a manner that says she knows exactly the image she is projecting. The young man leaps to his feet and moves quickly down the street after her. He callously jostles people on the crowded avenue in order to catch up with her.
It is not clear whether she is aware of his pursuit, but she is clearly having an effect on each man she passes. Their eyes are drawn to her like metal shavings to a magnet. However, with her head haughtily held high, she neither sees the danger lying just ahead of her, nor the public sanitation worker who tries to warn her of imminent peril. As the young man finally comes up right behind her (probably with a clever pick-up line on the tip of his tongue), this beautiful girl puts her fashionable high-heeled sandal down into a pile of dog excrement. She recoils in shock, anger, frustration and disgust. And her pursuer takes one look and walks right on by, as if the entire chase had never even occurred. All his desire instantly quenched by this unpleasantness, he is out of there.
I feel there was something profound conveyed in this commercial, crude as it was. It is clear that the young man’s motivation was lust. This can also be said of the girl. This, of course is nothing new in the advertising world. “Sex sells.” But what is so amazing is his reaction as soon as she stepped in the stuff. He wants nothing to do with her. Perhaps the advertisers were trying to portray that as a good thing, but to me it so graphically reveals the rottenness of their whole mentality. There was not the slightest hint of any desire to help – just to escape from a suddenly unpleasant situation. If it had not happened and he had tried to speak to her she might have just arrogantly laughed in his face. But how grateful she might have been, if, when the mishap occurred, he had jumped in and said, “Let me help you get cleaned up. Sit here on this bench. I’ll get some water and paper towels from the cafe. Can I call a taxi for you so you can get home and change?” But since his motivation and focus was only self-gratification, he could not see any value in service to others.
Are We Avoiding Others’ Problems?
This is the illusory world that the media portrays and many people live in. Those who inhabit that world of ego proclaim, “Those things which make me happy and give me satisfaction are where my focus is. I don’t want to deal with peoples’ problems, their messes. Don’t trouble me with the dirty world all around. Lust excites me. Never mind issues like unwanted pregnancy, abortion, venereal disease and damaged emotions. Smoking cigarettes is cool. Don’t show me photos of diseased lungs. Gambling, drugs and drunkenness thrill me. Addiction, lost savings, broken health and broken homes are someone else’s problem, not mine.”
Can we as believers be caught in a similar trap, just couching it in spiritual or religious words? Do we want to avoid dealing with the unpleasant things in our lives and in the lives of others? Do we expect that if we have enough faith all the bad and ugly things will go away? If all our doctrines are perfect will the world then flock to our door? Can’t we say a few prayers and everything will be alright? If so, then the world’s standards have influenced our thinking. We are also called to go out and pursue people, but not for selfish reasons like the man in the commercial. We are no longer to live for ourselves, but for Him who died and rose again on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:15). He wants us out in the world demonstrating the love and mercy of God. That means getting involved and getting our hands dirty.
If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? (James 2:15, 16)
Stepping Into the Mess
Sometimes we look at someone and say, “Oh, he is so talented, wealthy, intelligent, clever, energetic, successful (take your pick). Wouldn’t he be a great asset to the kingdom of God if we could only get him to believe?” Is that what we read in the Scriptures? What about the poor and unloved? How do we respond to those who have nothing to offer? What do we do for those who are in messy situations whether they stepped into them knowingly or ignorantly? Those that desperately need the salvation of God are not generally the “beautiful people.” But even the “beautiful people” have great needs. It just takes them stepping into some serious mess before we, and they, can see through the shallow exterior.
For consider your calling brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised, God has chosen the things that are not that He might nullify the things that are, that no man should boast before God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
How did it happen? How could God make the rejected ones of this world into something special in His kingdom? It happened because Yeshua did it for us. He left His comfortable and beautiful environment and came to this wicked and sin-sick world to rescue us. He was not afraid to get dirty to rescue us. He was not even afraid to die on our behalf. And He calls us to be willing to do the same. “If I then, the Lord and the teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you” (John 13:14,15).
There is a story of a man who was very disturbed by all the suffering in the lives of people he saw around him. Some were hungry. Some had hardly any clothes. Some were in great pain and sorrow. The man turned to God and in frustration cried out, “Why don’t you do something to help them?” And God replied to him, “I have done something. I created you.”
Needy people are in our sphere of influence because God wants us to be his hands extended specifically to them with physical, emotional and spiritual help. Half a lifetime ago, God brought into our lives a man in the final stages of cancer. His wife was an alcoholic. He died soon afterwards and the wife squandered what insurance money there was and ran off with a new boyfriend. There were several teenage daughters left to fend for themselves. God opened our hearts and we opened our home to them. They lived with us for a total of seven years. Today they and their families are still very much a part of our lives.
If Yeshua lives in us, then the words He read regarding Himself from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue in Nazareth also apply to us.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18).