We finally got to see the movie, “The Help”. OK as far as cinematography and all the stuff that critics and real movie aficionados notice – but for me, a movie is always really about the story.
Set in the early 1960’s, it tells the story of black women who were maids to white women at a time our country still hadn’t figured out that we ought to be ashamed of ourselves. The courage and tenacity of these particular black women – so full of strength and conviction, courage and will – is something good stories are made of. It’s not unique to black maids in the 60’s, but has been echoed and repeated throughout the world and throughout millennia.
What strikes me in these kinds of stories are the peripheral villains. Not the overt bullies, whose irrational but all-consuming hatred drive them to persecute and seek to destroy what is right and good and pure. But the secondary ones – the ones who look away, or cave to peer pressure, or just remain silent in the face of what they know to be wrong. These are the characters that make me squirm. I know that these are what good stories are made of, but I fear it is what I am made of as well.
I wonder what kind of woman I would have been in the early 1960’s in the deep South – would I have been a racist? If I had been a German woman in the 30’s, would I have harbored Jews? Would I have been willing to host a house church in Communist China? Or share the gospel in Taliban-run Afghanistan?
It’s so easy to let time and distance make me think better of myself than I ought. But if I’m honest, I must also ask – what horrors are there today that I look away from rather than fight against with courage no matter the cost? What battle grounds are God’s people neglecting for the sake of our comfort, safety, and beds?
Yesterday was Sanctity of Life Sunday and I was shocked again at the atrocities that are done to millions of people each year world-wide in the name of choice, economics, preference. But I was also shocked when I realized that I really haven’t even thought about it much since the last time someone else brought it up! It’s right outside my door and I pretend to not know about it.
Proverbs 24:11-12 says: Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, O hold them back. If you say, “See, we did not know this,” Does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?
Those are sobering words to me. Of course I know it’s going on – I just don’t spend the kind of time or attention or money or effort on it that I should.
How about Africa’s street children where poverty and attachment disorder is a way of life? Muslim countries where women are abused and treated as less than animals? Places where Christians face execution for their faith?
These things make me cringe because I know that I am not exhausted in the efforts to do all that I can do to make a difference. I do some things – when I think about – but I know I don’t think about it enough. And I’m sure that I couldn’t stand before the Lord and say, “I did everything I could think to do.”
I wish I could rationalize my complacence somehow, but I can’t. James 4: 17 doesn’t let us off the hook:
“Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Something of importance to note is that the previous verses talk about what we plan to do without thinking – really thinking – about what we’re saying, as well as the brevity of our lives.
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’ Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.’ But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
These passages are so familiar to us that it’s easy not to put these thoughts together. Not only are we not to presume upon God the continuing of our days, but we need to do the things that we know are right to do while we have time and breath to do them.
It’s more comforting to think of myself in terms of comparison to those around me. I’m not that bad… right? But the Bible doesn’t do that. God judges me through the blood of Jesus – I’m his and nothing can ruin that. But he asks me to be faithful – I WANT to be faithful. But I am so easily distracted by searching out my own ease and comfort rather than His glory.
Lord, search my heart and see if there be any wicked way in me. Cleanse me and I shall be clean. Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow. Open my eyes, Lord, to your holiness, and help me to see that which you have ordained for me. Let me not shrink back in fear from doing your will. God, give me courage to stand with the righteous. Give me wisdom, Lord to know where that is. Increase my faith, oh Lord I pray, so that I can come to you and hear you, and you alone say, “well done my good and faithful servant.”