Always seek opportunities of doing good both to one another and to all the world (1 Thessalonians 5:15).
Since I spend a lot of time away from home traveling on business, I have many chances to observe people in all sorts of situations throughout the country—on campuses, in downtown areas, as part of large gatherings and on public transportation. I have encountered scores who seem preoccupied and almost oblivious to their environment and impact on others.
I have come to the conclusion we live in a distracted world.
Armed with an “i-device” of some sort, I am finding more and more are choosing to distract themselves with music, texting, social networking, games and videos, rather than noticing and interacting with one another in person. Countless seem to be tuning-out personal contact and replacing it with virtual communication and entertainment.
Many of us utilize every “spare” moment we have on our phone, iPod, television, or computer. I understand all of these items are useful and necessary; however countless are engaging in these activities just to fill (or kill) time. A recent study by uSamp, an online market research company, found these kinds of distractions can impact production by up to seventy-one percent if not properly managed.
Whatever distractive behavior we engage in, we have become almost conditioned to always be listening to something, having something in our hands or having something in front of us every minute of the day. If you don’t believe it, try leaving home without your phone sometime. As a result, we are becoming disconnected and isolated from one another and our surroundings.
New York City lawmakers have gone to the extent of proposing a ban on crossing a street while listening to headphones or talking on your cell phone. Oregon and California are also considering a similar legislation along with the hopes of extending the ban to other activities.
Most states have or are considering bills prohibiting drivers from all handheld cell phone use including texting, while some have even passed a “distracted driver law” which allows an officer to cite a person if they were distracted with any non-driving behavior.
I wonder how I would fare if there was a law against living a distracted life?
The 1828 edition of Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language defines a “distraction” as confusion from a multiplicity of objects crowding on the mind and calling the attention different ways.
Written almost two hundred years ago, Webster seemed to have known exactly what a distraction in the twenty-first century was going to look like and describes the game plan of the enemy’s most effective tool of late—utilizing our fixation with electronics, the Internet and need to be actively “doing something” to crowd our mind and divert our attention away from our reason for being here.
In our already busy lives, running from place to place, rarely having time to accomplish everything, barely having a moment to eat and never meeting all of the demands placed upon us, we willingly distract ourselves during those few moments we have instead of seeking opportunities of doing good.
Jesus exhibited time and again how easy it is just by noticing, stopping, and responding.
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers . . .” Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-19).
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you." But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” . . . Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace" (Luke 8:45-48).
When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity” (Luke 13:12).
Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (Luke 18:40-41).
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5).
Jesus didn’t have to identify and minister to these individuals, but he was able to because he made himself available to “divine interruptions.” Many of us probably have similar chances to share the Gospel, encourage someone, show hospitality or impact others (or even meet someone new), but we don’t because we distract ourselves.
Maybe that’s part of the reason why Jesus commissioned his disciples to “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic”(Luke 9:3), in order to be forced to seek others out, build relationships, ask for a place to stay, and live a life of faith.
As a single, it’s almost too easy to go about our business, control our surroundings, avoid interacting with others and live a life of solitude within our own little world (and we wonder why we don’t meet anyone new). However, God wants us to seek opportunities of doing good and push us outside of and beyond our “comfort zone” to build relationship and love on others.
As a result of our faithfulness, others will love on us.
Some friends of mine use the expression “Squirrel!” when one of us strays off on a tangent or is interrupted by something other than what we were discussing or involved with. This comes from the Disney movie Up where Dug (the dog) is talking to a couple of the main characters and his attention is immediately diverted to a passing squirrel.
In a similar way, this is how we should be—always on the lookout, always ready to react to a need, and always seeking opportunities for doing good.
Be dressed and ready for service. (Luke 12:35).
Cliff Young is a contributing writer to Sandlot Stories (ARose Books), as well as the monthly column, "He Said-She Said," in Crosswalk.com's Singles Channel. An architect and former youth worker, he now works with Christian musicians and consults for a number of Christian ministries. Got feedback? Send your comments and questions to email@example.com.