How many times have we let fear stop us from doing what is right?
This saying is as much of a challenge to us today as it was to the people in the time that it was written. It is an indictment of the excuses that we often use for not coming to the aid of our neighbors when they are in serious trouble. Such things do not suffice before God who sees through all of our excuses.
How many times have we let fear stop us from doing what is right. We all too often “faint” before things like the fear of retribution, the fear of being ridiculed, the fear of being ostracized. Fear is a paradoxical reality for us. It can be our greatest enemy. Yet, if we take charge of it, it can turn us from cowardice in the face of danger, to true heroism. In my experience, I know that there have been times when I have allowed my fears to rule over my decisions to do what was right. In every case, I not only felt the consequences of guilt, but also a bitter sense of personal shame. I have felt the temptation to make excuses for my failures in courage. Somehow those excuses always rang hollow within myself. Sometimes it was a selfish arrogance that caused me to deny aid to someone who was in trouble. I made excuses like, “But I knew nothing about this.” (verse 11) In every case I was guilty of the further suffering of the other.
I remember an incident when I was serving in Vietnam when an obviously hungry young Vietnamese boy ran up and grabbed a can of C-rations that I had just opened to eat. I yelled something foul in Vietnamese at him as he ran away, then heard a voice behind me say, “Does that make you feel like a man?” I immediately felt the guilty sting of my arrogance. That remark went through me like a hot arrow right into my soul. I said nothing. I had no excuses. The voice had made me look at my insensitive, arrogant selfishness as if in a mirror. That boy was my neighbor who was in trouble. He was poor and truly hungry and I could have fed him easily. There were cases of C-rations nearby. Yet all I could think about was myself. God truly works in mysterious ways. I realized in that little event how easily I could be guilty of prejudice, unreasonable anger, and insensitivity toward another’s real and legitimate suffering. In that little event I experienced a conversion of heart that remains with me today. God saw through my excuses and used the voice of another Marine behind me to wake me up. Thanks be to God!
When we believe that God is always with us, always ready to help us, we will be able to confront and conquer the fears that rise up before us when we are called upon to come to the aid of a neighbor in need. If we know this about God and believe, we will no longer falter in times of trouble. We will be his good disciples. We will be more able to have the courage of our convictions even in times of great stress. God is the source of our greatest strength. His grace is ours at all times, if we open ourselves to it. Yes. God IS great and we are his people. Look to God, then, when you are called on to stand up for your neighbor. He will provide.
Lord, give us the courage to always defend those who are being unjustly treated. Help us to overcome our fears so that we may always respond to your commandment, to love others as you have loved us, for, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13) We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!
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