My commute to work normally lasts about 30 minutes. At least a couple of times a month, though, I spend an hour or more stuck in traffic, staring at a long line of tail lights stretching across the bridge where I-430 North crosses the Arkansas River. A rare few of those delays are due to really frightening-looking wrecks, but most are caused by simple fender benders. Actually, the fender benders aren’t to blame. What really causes the congestion are the people who slow down to survey the damage: rubber-neckers.
Those people – who stop to gawk at trouble but have no intention of helping – are present in other areas of our lives, too. They’re in our families. We’re friends with them. We work and go to church with them. Sometimes we are them.
I’ve been reflecting lately on the people who’ve mentored me and helped me grow. God has blessed me with a number of such people, and while they’ve all had their own unique strengths and styles they all share at least one characteristic: they’ve held me accountable. When they saw trouble, they didn’t just drive by and point, they stopped to help.
To be clear, there’s discernment to be made between helping and meddling. If everybody who passed a minor accident stopped to help, give their testimony to the police, and recommend their preferred body shop or personal injury lawyer, congestion would quickly turn into gridlock. But common sense and basic compassion should lead us to recognize that someone stranded in the median with a flat tire could probably use some assistance.
Don’t get tricked into thinking that praying for someone as they shrink in your rear-view mirror (literally or metaphorically) is enough. God calls us to action as well as prayer. If you find yourself saying about a friend in trouble, “it’s probably none of my business, and I’m sure they’ve got other people they can rely on, but I’ll pray for them” you’re rubber-necking.
Your friend who’s struggling with anger issues? They need help, not just time alone. Your neighbor whose spouse just left them? Ditto. The same goes for hurting people and those trapped or falling into sinful practice: they need your prayers, but they also need someone to show them the right way to live and listen to them.
When Paul wrote his first letter to the church at Corinth, he admonished them boldly for their sin. Rather than let these people, who he loved, drift farther and farther away from Christ, he stopped to lend a hand. And he did so out of love, not obligation or any sense of superiority.
Help your brothers and sisters in Christ. Don’t gossip about them or leave them to figure things out on their own. Love them enough to help them and show them the way.