Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Good That You Could Have Done

A man has fallen alongside the road. He cannot get up, and he cannot call for help. He is motionlessly still. But he is conscious, aware of what is happening to his failing body… scared, trembling, panicked, and unable to do anything but pray for his well-being.

A man walks by and sees him lying beside the road. He quickly looks away to avoid eye contact and rushes on passed. He doesn’t want to be bothered at the moment. He does, of course, have a very important meeting he has to get to.

The man lies on…

A woman rides her bicycle passed him. She notices him, and recognizes he may need help. However, she, too, passes him by. She couldn’t possibly be bothered by the man’s dirtiness (which only attached itself to the man when he fell to the ground). And besides, she doesn’t know him. For all she knows, he could just be another trickster out to lure another young woman such as herself into questionable circumstances, or worse.

The man lies on…

A young boy and girl (siblings) see the man from the back of their parent’s car as they ride by. The boy looks out of curiosity, but says nothing when he notices his parents look the other way. He has already been in trouble once today and doesn’t wish to cause anymore for himself. So, he says nothing. The girl notices the man too, but, like her brother, decides it’s best to keep quiet. She isn’t afraid of getting into any trouble, but she thinks old people are simply a waste of time. If the dirty, old man lies in the sun baking all day, she is sure it must be for reasons of his choosing—the man must have lived a rough life to end up on the side of the road in such squalid conditions.

The man lies on…

Finally, a policeman drives up to the man on his motorcycle and stops to see what the problem is. The man’s eyes are fixed and wide. His breathing has stopped. The policeman immediately calls for help and begins CPR. He is, however, no less than an hour too late. For the man had fallen beside the road some four hours earlier. He had been the roadside appeal to no less than ten other people in total. And he had received no help when it was most crucial to him to receive help.

The man lies on… dead.

I have always taken it to heart that sin is not only the bad that we do in our lives, but also the good that we could have done, but didn’t do. Each of us has probably had at least one moment of seeing a car stranded on the side of the road and been in too much of a hurry to stop and see if the person/s inside need help. We have rushed inside, allowing the door to slam in the face of the person behind us. We have seen someone hungry and neglected to feed them. We have seen someone with ripped up, dirty clothes, and neglected to help them get new ones. We have known of the old man or woman who lives down the street, neglected and lonely, and yet we rarely, if ever, stopped to pay them a visit. We have known someone who needed a ride someplace, but turned them down because we didn’t want to be bothered to drive a mile or two out of our way. We have forgotten to tell the ones we love that we love them, far too often. We have looked the other way when a friendly, but irritating acquaintance approached us in the store. We haven’t said the kind words that could have lightened another person’s day.

In so many ways, we have all been guilty at one time or another of not doing the good that we could have done. So often we are simply too selfish. We can’t be “bothered” to do that good: to give some time, money, energy, or care. Yet for those of us who call ourselves Christian, do we not remember how much Jesus gave of himself for us?

I am guilty of not always doing the good that I could do. I confess this. And it is in recognition of these moments that could have been that I typically feel the greatest of regrets.

As an example, I went to bed last night feeling terrible. I was exhausted from not having got to bed soon enough the night before and having worked a long work day in addition to that. But it was very much more caused by something else. I have been asked by one of the students I regularly sub for to attend one of his basketball games. I’ve put off other invites for various reasons—most of them because I just literally could not go for one reason or another. However, yesterday he invited me again. It was to be the last game of the season for his team should they fail to win. And so he wanted me to go see him play. I told him I would try to go, and I meant that I would try. I knew there were some obstacles, but probably nothing I couldn’t get around.

I ended up being able to go. Nothing was in my way, or stopping me.

But I didn’t go…

As I watched the clock tick off each minute until I knew it was too late, I felt such a deep regret that it felt like a huge weight had been placed upon me. I thought about that boy waiting eagerly for me to show up at his game, and never seeing me come through the doors—not even for a minute or two. And I thought about how, deep down, I honestly would have liked to see him and his team play at least once. And I thought about how important that would have been for him to have known that a teacher cared enough about him to show up like that.

I didn’t show up though. I could have. Instead, I chose to go home, get things ready for the next day, and again stay up later than I should have doing frivolous things. I feel terrible now for having made that decision. I keep thinking about how just to have shown up for a few minutes would have made all the difference in the world. I chose to sin instead.

I didn’t do the good that I could have done.

How often we each do this. How often are we the ones who walk on by? How often are we the ones who don’t show up? And how great are the consequences of those actions?

Sinning is not just doing bad things, as we traditionally view bad things to be. It is also seeing something good you could do, and simply not doing that good.

I really despise that sort of sin more than most others, especially when I am the one committing it.


naturgesetz said...

You're right that failing to do the good we're supposed to do can be as sinful as doing something we shouldn't.

Do you understand why you chose not to go to the game? I'm not asking you to tell me, just suggesting it might be worth thinking about.

I know that sometimes I'll get an impulse do do something helpful, but immediately dismiss the idea. I think I'm pretty selfish much of the time, and it worries me because I know it;s all about love, and selfishness is just the opposite of love. All I can do is call on God's mercy and ask him to make me better.

Brandon said...

"All I can do is call on God's mercy and ask him to make me better."

Yep, yep, yep.

I'll be honest, there were several reasons why I didn't go to that game, but selfishness does play into it a lot--I was tired, didn't want to stray from my comfort zone any (to attend a game--believe it or not I really get stressed being in big crowds like that), and because I'm just not really into watching sports like that either. I don't really think any of these were good enough reasons not to have went though.