“Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
John, a widower, lived next door to Robert, also a widower whose wife had recently died. Robert’s relatives lived far away in another state and could rarely get away to visit. For his part, Robert was too frail to travel. He longed for friends, for companionship, but his off-putting, quirky personality made him hard to like. John avoided Robert at every opportunity, finding excuses to turn down invitations to visit, never going outside if his neighbor was in the yard. John was fully aware of Robert’s lonliness yet he withheld the gift of friendship. Then, one Sunday morning, as he arrived home from church, John saw an ambulance parked on the street in front of Robert’s house. A few moments later, a stretcher was wheeled down the sidewalk next door. Robert’s body was covered with a sheet. He had committed suicide.
The sins of commission are frightening enough; the things we willfully do, knowing they are wrong. But the sins of omission can be terrifying in the extreme, if we have any sensitivity. These are the things we ought to have done that we leave undone. There is no end to the rationalizations we can call up in our defense. Either our lives are too full of obligations to be bothered with others, or we decide the neighbor is undeserving of our help.
Jesus got Himself into all kinds of trouble because He went out of His way to be there for those who others found plenty of reason to avoid. He took up the obligation to care for the neighbor not because they were lovable or likable but because the need was there and love could do no other.
Are you and I so attractive, lovable and likable that God simply could not resist us and therefore, gave us His only begotten Son to die for us? Hardly. If we dare to claim, to our benefit, His grace, mercy, love and forgiveness, by what rationale do we dare withhold from one another the benefit of a neighbor’s concern?
“May the peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.”