“Mommy, that little boy is dropping trash all over the park. Tell his mommy to make him stop!”
My two-year-old daughter was indignant that someone would be littering. I told her I wasn’t going to tell his mommy anything, but she could if she wanted. To my surprise and amusement, she did exactly that. Marching over to their picnic table, she gave them quite a lecture about being good to God’s creation!
My own mother, in her advanced years, used to proclaim, “If I don’t say something, who will?” She felt she had earned the right to state her opinion on just about any subject.
Several years ago my daughter and I were in the stands watching her brothers play baseball. One parent was loudly complaining about the manager and his wife and the way they were handling various fundraisers the team was expected to take part in. Carrie Anne looked at me, wondering how I would respond to someone’s character being publicly dragged through the mud. I realized this was a teaching moment I couldn’t avoid, so I addressed the woman and her unacceptable behavior in a calm, forthright manner.
“I have the right to say anything I want!” she loudly proclaimed.
“Yes, you do. But not in the presence of me and my daughter in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear.”
“Live and let live,” is clearly the motto for many people, but not for the women in my family!
But sometimes it’s wise to measure our words and consider our timing. Allowing things to take their course without interfering. I often avoided getting involved with sibling disputes so my children would learn to solve their own issues. I also encouraged them to speak directly to their teachers when they had problems. Even though I didn’t get involved, that didn’t mean I was indifferent to their plight. It didn’t mean I didn’t care.
As a Christian, just how much should I get involved… stick my neck out? I know that sometimes when I’ve been bold, my ideas and feelings get stomped on and ridiculed. I suppose I’ve had to “live and learn” when and where to take a stand.
Actually, reading and discussing theories can’t get us into too much trouble. Sometimes it’s just easier when we aren’t expected to put into practice what we’ve learned or think we know. But then when we’re thrown into the ring and actually have to do it… be a parent… teach a classroom full of students… run a meeting or lead a committee… we are amazed at how many truly practical things were left untaught, unsaid.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that noted theologian, was truly adamant about getting involved. Christianity is something to be lived, not discussed to its death. His pupils remembered his impatience with “the helpless exchange of open-ended questions.” It reminds me of Paul’s second letter to Timothy when he said, “The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline”(2 Tim 1:7).
Oh… love and self-discipline. That doesn’t give me permission to just run my mouth off whenever I feel I have the right, or think I am right.
I know I can’t stand quietly by, though. The first verses of Psalm 39 tell about how we can be torn apart inside when we don’t stand up for our beliefs, when we don’t defend those who can’t answer for themselves.
But Psalm 32 also talks about when we are silent before God about our own faults and failures… how it eats away at us until we can’t stand it anymore but cry out for His mercy. And He is there to forgive, to lift the burden from our lives, and to renew our strength to go on living.
So is God just taking a “live and let live” approach to this world? Sometimes it seems that way when the wicked are convinced that He really doesn’t mind what they are doing… when they get away with murder… literally.
But He warns them not to get too confident in their ways, thinking He wouldn’t get involved, thinking He was just going along with their plans. “Our God comes and will not be silent” (Ps. 50:3).
I always think it’s more helpful to actually listen to someone who has accomplished something and not just talked it to death with all sorts of theories and ideas. I appreciate the wisdom of an experienced mother or teacher. I listen carefully to the stories of those who have actually led others.
That’s why I enjoy hearing about other Christians who have faced temptations, battles, barriers. I can learn from their trials and hopefully gain a better understanding of how to live my own life.
And that’s also why I love the Gospels. I watch and listen to my Lord living His life… getting involved… doing, not just saying.
Because my God didn’t have a “live and let live” attitude when He created this world and His people. He could have said, “I gave them life and look what they are doing with it! Oh well, live and learn… even though it seems they’ll never get it right.”
He also could have said, “Live and let die!” But He didn’t.
He couldn’t permit evil to win. He didn’t remain silent or uninvolved or indifferent. He chose to intervene, step in, take a stand. For this world. For me. He sent His one and only Son to live, and He let Him die so that I wouldn’t have that final judgment on me.
My Lord Jesus truly is my power and strength… the One I put my faith in… the One who is not silent… the One who speaks up for me when it truly matters.