As the old saying goes I guess, “We don’t need no water just let it burn.” The saying dates back to a song from the 1980’s and it serves to exemplify the rallying culture of partying. I think it’s possible what was once on the fringes of our society, namely, not caring much about what’s going on with other peoples, places, or things, has actually crept into the mainstream. There was an event this past week that I’ve been dying to write about, because it shows just how de-sensitized we have become as a society to the issues involving others.
Maybe you read about this event that occurred at an A&W Root Beer stand in Winnipeg. The initial news report says that the fire was on the roof, but it ended up destroying the entire building. Up to 8 fire trucks fought the blaze while, as Abigail Turner reported, “Many people were oblivious to the situation, as vehicles continued to lineup in the drive-thru.” You can actually go onto Youtube and watch videos of the building set ablaze while hungry customers attempted to get their cold root beers and average hamburgers in spite of what was going on with the establishment they were attempting to buy from. Thankfully, all employees inside the building were able to evacuate before the fire could harm them, however, it seems the customers in line outside weren’t too concerned about them.
Now, what should we make of all this? Tim Keller has this quote saying “The opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.” Where did Keller get this? I think he probably got it from Luke 10:25-37, which most of us know as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus tells the parable of what it means to live out the Great Commandment to Love God and Love Your Neighbor. The parable tells of a man going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he is attacked by robbers and left on the side of the road. A religious guy comes strolling down the road, takes a look at the guy, and then just keeps strolling. Another very religious man comes mozying down the street when he sees the guy and decides “Ahh I ain’t stopping for that.” But then a Samaritan saw the man and had pity him. For context, the Samaritans and Jews were not BFF’s at all, as a matter of fact they didn’t like each other much! The Samaritan didn’t allow cultural prejudices and norms to control who he would love, so he cared for this man anyways. The man even paid some of his own money to fix the injured man’s issues. To put it plain and simply, the Good Samaritan had love and this love led him to act with mercy upon his neighbor.
The roof the roof the roof is on fire, and yet nobody seems to love their neighbor and have mercy on them, even though their houses and buildings are burning to the ground. What happened at that A&W in Winnipeg is a small microcosm for what is going on across our entire nation today. Because of sin, we are consumed with ourselves, we are de-sensitized to the pain and suffering of those around us, we don’t speak to the people who live next door, we don’t go out of our way to make a phone call and see how our old friends are doing, we usually don’t do anything if it doesn’t directly affect us, and we essentially just live saying “We don’t need no water just let it burn.” Well guess what, people’s entire lives are burning to ruins without anyone even having a clue that anything was going on at all. We don’t show hate to people and we don’t bash them or torment them-we just ignore them altogether, and then when things blow up we say “I never would have guessed they would have done that! If only I knew what was going on!” Maybe we would know what’s going on if we stopped lining up in the drive-thru to get our own selfish wants filled as our neighbor is simultaneously burning up.
How do we do better as a society if I’m right about all this? Do we need political action or more education as many suggest? I long for the day that people realize these sorts of solutions are inadequate! How many more failed programs and programming do we need to go through before people realize that politically savvy and smart folks are just as impacted by original sin as dumb and clueless folks? Our society doesn’t need more knowledge or more government we need more grace! Grace changes the hearts of individuals; individuals make up homes; homes make up neighborhoods; neighborhoods make up cities; cities make up states; states make up nations. People want a sweeping answer to thrust upon entire societies to fix a problem; that doesn’t work, it’s too simplistic. If it were this easy don’t you think humans would have figured this out by now? The whole point is that it isn’t easy, it isn’t even natural, it’s miraculous! We need a miracle to occur in the lives of individuals if individuals will ever learn to love and then have mercy on their neighbors. The way for individuals to stop obsessing over themselves is not a natural way, but a God-enabled way!
If we are going to begin to pay attention to the fires burning all round us then we are going to need our eyes opened to the reality that there is a fire there in the first place. How does this happen? “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saves a wretch like me. I once was lost but now I’m found; I was blind but now I see.” We need our eyes opened to the truth of the good news that Jesus loved us and gave Himself up for us. Then, the bible says we are “crucified with Christ and it’s no longer I who lives, but Christ in me.” When Christ lives within you then you can truly orient your life around God rather than yourself, and this will allow you and me to love God and truly love our neighbor. How do we get the fire to stop burning in our own life? We allow God’s grace to fall like rain on the fire caused by our own sin, and rest in His finished work in our place. How do we then start helping to extinguish the fires of our suicidal friends, or our struggling neighbors, or our impoverished youth one city over? We allow the grace that fell like rain into our own lives to then overflow out of our own hearts and onto other people. Think about it…