Many times in our lives events happen that overwhelm us. We think we have everything under control and then the reality of life shows up and rocks our world. The inherent dangers of life are always present, but somehow we set them aside and live. Then something happens and we need help. Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
A few years back our then RWJM West Coast Coordinator, Gary Dionne, found himself in the middle of something terrible. A shooter opened fire in Terminal 3 at the security checkpoint in LAX. Suddenly he was on the floor as gunshots rang out. He watched the gunman as he turned his attention and walked away with his back to him. He made a run for it, stepping over bodies lying in blood on the floor. He made it out with his life.
Seemed simple enough, head to the airport, board the plane to NYC and enjoy the flight. It ended in tragedy. We begin to question, how, why, for what purpose. We struggle to comprehend; this was routine, nothing was supposed to happen, we can’t believe it.
Last week in Lewiston ME someone with a diminished mental capacity decided to open fire in a Bowling Alley and a Bar. Eighteen people lost their lives, hundreds of lives were changed forever. Families have been shaken. Communities have been rocked. In the end the gunman took his life. But why did he have to take so many other lives with him? Some questions don’t have easy answers.
The world around us isn’t as stable as we think. The lives of people are not on stable foundations. We can be thrust into the middle of a life threatening situation at a moment’s notice. How do we live with that hanging over us?
Life is never routine, but we tend to fall into a seemingly comfortable and secure place. We try to build security and comfort into our daily lives. We seek to protect ourselves from things that can rob us of the peace we so long for. Sometimes we take that to an extreme and seek to isolate ourselves.
The fact is life is not meant to be lived on an island, it is not meant to be lived alone. We need to be surrounded by others who share our lives with us. When the challenges of life become all too real we will not survive without the help from our friends. We need to seek to be there for others, intentionally caring for them above our own very lives. That is not something that is easy.
We all have communities we belong to and feel safe and comfortable in. Communities do a great job in looking out for their own. Many times we rally around someone or a family that is going through a difficult time. Even then we can see that sense of community violated. The pressures of the world overflow into our community.
Communities are built and maintained by a mutual respect and value for each one. When we live with that as a goal we build community. When that is violated fear rises to the surface. We can overcome that fear when we come alongside each other and build strong relationships. Deeper than that, a friendship. Jesus helps us understand what it means to be a friend. In John’s gospel Jesus said;
John 15:13, Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
It means that what is going on in our life is less important than what is going on in someone else’s life. It implies that we should stop at nothing to reach out and show grace, mercy, kindness, gentleness, and faithfulness to others. True love is defined by what we are willing to give up for someone else. Love is nothing more than caring for someone else more than we care about ourselves.
I am reminded of these words from a song by FFH;
“We all want the same things out of life,
We all wanna be loved,
We all wanna belong,
We all wanna know it’s gonna be alright.
That’s why Jesus came
and gave His life away,
and rose again on that day,
so we could say
“I’m never, never gonna be alone”
We wonder what happens in a person’s life that moves them to such actions. What snaps inside that they conclude taking someone else’s life is the right way to solve the problem? How do we respond to those who are withdrawn and facing internal struggles that are difficult for others to see and understand?
All this indicates that we need to look beyond ourselves. We need to reach out to others and make an effort to walk alongside them. Not to judge them, fix them or change them, but to be a friend and help them through the difficulties we all face. It takes an effort to help someone change the direction of their life. We need to care enough to make that effort.
How do we demonstrate we truly care for one another? Listen to the words of Paul as he talks about the qualities that demonstrate we truly care.
1Corinthians 13:4-8; NIV; Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
We can endure the challenges that life throws at us with a little help from our friends. In life we need each other to truly live. I would encourage you to get out there and live. Show someone the love of Jesus. Put your wants and needs aside and put someone else’s needs as your priority. We will experience life in a way that we have never imagined. We will experience life to its fullest. Count on the promise of the Scripture, love never fails!
John 3:16-17; NIV; “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.