“Stop doing that bad thing you are doing!”
I’m guilty of saying that as much as the next guy. I see people rioting and think, “They should just stop rioting.” I see people headed toward divorce and think, “They should just stay married.” I see people doing drugs and think, “They should just stop doing drugs.” I see people having sex with partner after partner after partner and think, “They should just stop having sex.”
I see people acting like self-righteous jerks and think, “They should stop being self-righteous jerks.” As if that is something I’ve stopped doing myself. Even this act of writing this blog can be seen as being guilty of doing just that.
It is true though.
People should stop doing bad things. Bad things are not good for them. Bad things are not good for society. Bad things are not good for my country (and the rest of the world too).
So they should stop.
But I am not sure that standing on the street corner and yelling “Stop what you are doing” helps.
I’m even more sure that sitting at our computers and mobile devices and yelling “STOP WHAT YOU ARE DOING” in all caps does not help either.
So then, if we agree that bad things need to stop happening, and that telling people to just stop doesn’t get them to just stop, then what should we do?
The gospel writer Matthew, in his recording of the good news that Jesus is to the world, told this story:
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”–Matthew 9:35-38
As Jesus brought the good news that the Kingdom of God was near (not far), he healed people of every disease and sickness.
And when he saw the people, when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them.
Jesus saw that people were harassed and helpless. And he had compassion on them.
Jesus saw that people were like sheep without a shepherd. And he had compassion on them.
So Jesus acted. Jesus healed. Jesus communicated that God’s kingdom was near them, for them, with them.
He became a shepherd, leading them through the valley of death, guiding them to still waters, bringing hope in hopeless situations.
And he says to his disciples, “We need more workers.”
Workers who will, like Jesus see the crowds and have compassion on them. Jesus needs workers who will understand the helplessness that comes with being harassed and instead of yelling “Stop!” at them, will help bring healing.
I have young friends who are desperately trying to escape cycles of meth addiction in their families. It’s all they know. And often, they say bad words. Often they react violently to confrontation. Often, they seek love through sexual expression.
They don’t need a “stop doing bad things message.” They need a you belong to the Kingdom of God message. They need a helpful hand. They need someone who will stand for them when they are harassed. They need people who will demonstrate sacrificial love to them. They need people who will be patient, kind, gentle, keeping no record of wrong. They need love.
I remember writing a letter to a family member basically telling him to stop being divorced. That he was sinning. But it wasn’t helpful. Because he needed compassion. He needed someone to understand his hurt. He needed love. But I offered a sermon instead.
I was wrong.
I want to be a harvest worker like Jesus. I want to offer compassion to the harassed and helpless. I want to be a shepherd to those in need of leadership.
But it may cost me everything.
And “everything” is harder than preaching “stop doing bad things”.