Confession: I’m not a big fan of other people’s problems. I’m a wicked sinner who’s got a pile of his own sin to deal with on a daily basis. When someone comes to me with a problem, whether it be physical, financial, relational, or spiritual, I’m not doing a jig of excitement.
Working through problems with others takes work. My lazy heart doesn’t like work. It takes work to sit down and have a long, painful conversation about a friend’s current struggle with lust. It takes effort to pick up the phone and call a friend at 10:00 PM when all I want to do is sleep. My mind sinfully begins firing off excuses.
- Look Stephen, these aren’t your problems. Let them deal with them.
- You’ve had a long day and you just need R&R, TLC, and ABOC (A Bag of Chips).
- Why do I always get sucked into these situations?
Can you relate to my sinful, selfish distaste for the problem of others? The truth is, I don’t want to get my hands messy. People (myself included) are messy things, and I don’t want to get my hands dirty messing with other people’s problems.
Yet when I read the example of the Apostle Paul I’m deeply challenged. Paul was a guy who, out of deep love for the saints, didn’t hesitate to get messy. The book of Philemon illustrates this wonderfully.
Here’s the deal. Philemon has a slave named Onesimus. Onesimus, not being a Christian, steals from Philemon and then proceeds to high-tail it out of town. While on the run Onesimus meets Paul, who in turn leads him to Jesus. After becoming a Christian Onesimus realizes that he needs to return to Philemon and right what has been wrong. All this equals a very messy situation between two messy sinners.
Enter Paul. He writes a letter to Philemon, pleading with him to be reconciled to Onesimus. He offers to pay any monetary debt owed by Onesimus. He even asks Philemon to prepare a room for him so that he can come and visit. Out of love for Onesimus and Philemon, Paul gets his hands very messy.
I want to be like Paul. I want to have such a love for my fellow Christians that I’m not afraid to get my hands messy.
What about you? Can you relate to my distaste for messy people problems? How do we grow in our love for the saints?
+photo © Jenny Rollo