My Neighbor’s Garbage
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? Romans 10:13-14
Most of us are pretty good at recognizing self-destructive behavior in those around us. We might be blind to our own garbage, but we’re good at seeing our neighbor’s. When we do become aware of a struggle in the lives of those around us, we often go in one of two extreme directions. First, and perhaps most often, we distance ourselves, becoming judgmental. How stupid can you be? I would never do anything like that. This is particularly easy if we don’t have much invested in the relationship.
The closer we are to the one struggling however, the more likely we are to go in the other direction, allowing his garbage to become our garbage. It’s not uncommon for those close to the addict to get sucked into the disaster, becoming part of the problem. Whether through enabling or by being manipulated, those closest to the garbage end up getting it all over themselves.
The question is, What is my right response to those around me who are struggling? When I see a coworker wrestling with chemicals, is it any of my business? When a family member is self-destructing, what do I do?
Our usual responses – judging or getting sucked in – while natural, aren’t necessarily constructive. Today’s passage though, helps me understand my responsibility in responding to those around me. Speaking of salvation, Paul says that those who turn to Christ will be saved. He goes on to rhetorically ask how those around us can know the truth if we don’t share it with them?
The lesson for me, is that I am responsible for sharing how God has helped me in my struggle with those I see struggling. According to Paul, I do bear some responsibility to share the love of God with my neighbor. I must remember though, that I’m not responsible for his behavior. I can’t have faith or recover for anyone else and so, boundaries are appropriate. His garbage isn’t mine. My role is to share the truth of God’s transforming power and leave the results up to God.
I’m not responsible for fixing anyone. Only God can do that. I am responsible however, for allowing God to change me and then telling others of what he’s done for me.