Recently I had the privilege of speaking with a husband and wife, a couple of acquaintances with whom I had actually never had a real conversation. We were outside at a major sporting event in town on a hot day when three cyclists happened to ride in the larger sports complex in which we found ourselves. The woman saw them and quietly said, "Tell them they can't come in here. They are trespassing. They look as if they need water but don't give them any." I thought to myself how odd her comments were while her husband gave a slight laugh. In fact, it wasn't simply odd, it was selfish, uncaring, and seemingly out of character.
To my relief with regard to this couple, but to my horror as a story unfolded, these words did not express her true sentiment, but someone else's. One week earlier, as with most people in the country, we had two scorching days, not as the result of global warming, but as the result of the position of the earth in relation to the sun in the Southern part of the Northern hemisphere in July. On one of those days, the man across from me had been on a three hour bike ride with his partners and they were completely out of water. I happened to be doing nothing but standing outside on that day and actually drank a cup of water about every half hour. There is no doubt that these men needed water.
These cyclists were far from home when their water ran out. But, in the providence of God, they came upon a church and to their joy, a few men happened to be working on the grounds. As they rode onto the premises, they were greeted with the words, "You can't come in here, you're trespassing." The parched and weary cyclists informed them that they simply needed some water. There was a water hose in plain view that the men of the church had obviously used themselves. And by the way, they were indeed church members and no mere work crew as they dutifully informed the cyclists in need. Shockingly sad was their refusal to give these men a drink of water on a day when it was actually dangerous to be outside without it. There is no water shortage in this part of the world. Apparently, the only shortage we suffer from here is that of common decency and Christian love. A few implications may be drawn out here.
First, one of the things that separates human beings from animals is that we have essential dignity by virtue of the fact that we are created in the image of God. Most people recognize that reality even if they could not articulate it. Practically speaking, most people are not only willing but are happy to help those in need. It is owing to God's common grace manifest in this recognition of essential dignity in all human beings that people rush to help others in need. The citizens of New York in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 are an example of that dynamic. What we are talking about here is common decency in a civil society. Of course, not all human beings think and act with decency as the terrorists of 9/11 prove. However, it is inconceivable that Christians, who not only find themselves under the influence of common grace but also of saving grace, could act the way the aforementioned churchmen did.
Second, is it any wonder that the church is not well thought of in America today? Perhaps this example is extreme and there are many who represent Christ faithfully before a lost and dying world. However, actions akin to that which has been described are all too common among those who name Christ as Savior. Monday through Saturday it is difficult to distinguish those who claim to know Christ from those who do not. Anger, belligerence, selfishness, covetousness, greed, and so many more manifestations of evil are almost universal among Christians. Paul told the Jews that the Name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles because of them (Rom. 2:24). How sad it is that this same denunciation must be applied to the church of Jesus Christ in our land in far too many cases. In the book of Acts we are told that those outside the faith magnified those in the church because of their holiness (5:13). How discouragingly different it is today.
Third, perhaps as an aside, though related, one has to conclude that it is the same ones who can't give a cup of water to some weary cyclists deemed by them to be trespassers who actually tear up our churches. So often the man of God goes into a church and does nothing more than patiently love the people and expound the word of God. But, when things begin to change as the Spirit of God moves in the hearts of some, and people begin to move out of complacency into ministry, these territorial individuals feel threatened and take steps to maintain their power. Too often the man of God is blamed for their dissimulation and contentiousness. It behooves the faithful to recognize what they're dealing with in these situations and what the Scripture has to say about it.
Fourth, one cannot escape the fact that the Scripture teaches that those who are saved actually bear the fruit of righteousness and that those who do not cannot in any way consider themselves to be saved. John is devastatingly clear for example: "Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother (1 Jn. 3:7-10)." Note that love is a manifestation of the new birth. Without it, one cannot have hope that he/she is saved.
Fifth, there is a day of judgment coming and whether or not one is willing to give a drink of water to some weary cyclists actually has ramifications for that day. The Lord Jesus Himself said, "Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for...I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink...Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me...And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life (Matt. 25:34-46)." Let us take seriously how we treat those with whom we come in contact, for as we do what we do to them, we do it unto the Lord Himself.
Let there not be a shortage of Christlikeness in the church today. Let us treat others with love and kindness, even as our Father has treated us in like manner. Let us give a drink of water in the Name of Christ to all in need. And, in so doing, let Christ and His church be highly esteemed in this land.
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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