When I was about twelve years old I had a friend named Mike.  Mike told me about driving with his dad one day down a one lane road that wound through an area that was impossible to pass.  As they drove they came upon another car traveling below the posted speed limit.  Unable to pass Mike’s dad had no choice but to stay behind the slower car.  Little by little the lead car began to decrease its speed until it came to a complete stop in the middle of the road.  Mike’s dad, clearly frustrated, yelled out the window “DO SOMETHING. EVEN IF IT’S WRONG!”. About that time the driver in the lead car shifted into reverse and backed up into Mike and his dad crushing the grill and headlights.

I’ve had that story in the back of my head for over thirty years and it’s always been just a funny Anecdote.  But over the past few years it’s taken on new meaning to me. Almost a mantra of sorts.

As we go through life we continually meet new people and build, refine and sometimes end relationships. Some do it more often than others and some are better at it than others but, unless you’re a hermit, people are a part of your life.  The quality of those relationships will vary as will the quantity.   I have been guilty more than once of equating the later with the former much to my regret. For most of my life I wanted what I call “The Cheers life”.  I wanted to go where everyone knew my name and they were always glad I came.  What a great place that must be.  Who would ever want to leave? Maybe that’s why Cliff and Norm were always in the bar. Unfortunately the real world is a very different place.

In August of 1991 I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and became a Christian.  My initial impression of other Christians was one of happy and joyous people who built great friendships.  I had found a small group of people through a high school friend and ended up moving into a two bedroom apartment with three other Christian men.  I learned much in a short time and my entire life changed as I sought to live for Christ instead of for myself.

Without a doubt I have failed to this point to live the life Christ would have me live.  While I have conquered some sins I have allowed others to fester.  I am not the man I wish to be but neither am I the man I once was. Throughout my journey I have had the privilege of knowing a great number of people and a few have become true friends. Through these friends and acquaintances I have found that both Christians and non Christians have at least one thing in common: Most of us are cowards when it comes to the really difficult things of relationships.  We are either too afraid of saying the wrong thing or just unwilling to get out of our own comfort zones.  We would rather avoid the elephant in the room than admit the elephant exists, address it and move beyond it.

My wife left me in April of 2008.  Shortly after I started my Facebook account and began adding friends.  Facebook had been great for connecting with old friends I hadn’t seen in a while but almost without exception when the topic came up and I shared that my wife left me, the conversation quickly came to an end.  The other person just seemed to disappear.  Rather than address the issue head on and move beyond it, most people would rather just avoid it, and me, completely.  Why?  Are they afraid of upsetting me or asking the wrong question? The discourtesy of their avoidance is far more hurtful than most anything they could say.  I’m not looking to bleed all over people but am I suddenly unworthy of friendship? Even more hurtful is the response, or lack of, from those I’ve counted as close friends for many years.  Most seemed incapable of getting outside of themselves long enough to even check what was going on.  For most of my life I’ve been the one who contacts other people.  Very rarely has anyone initiated contact and now less than ever.  I used to contact friends when I needed emotional medicine but find that, when none is available, it’s worse than not having asked at all. This isn’t about just my problems and hurts. I’ve seen this same thing multiple times before both in my life and also in the lives of others and it’s very disturbing to me.

No doubt there are those few who are willing to risk it all to do what they believe is right.  When a friend loses a spouse they express sorrow and support even if that friend is more of an acquaintance.  They stand by others and love them well even when it’s uncomfortable or difficult for them.  There are those who give to their own hurt to help others and it’s a wonderful thing to see.  When my father died in 2000 my friends in New York all came to the funeral. Most had never met him.  They weren’t there for him. They were there for me. A good friend of mine flew up from Texas just to support me. He spent three days just being there for me as a brother in Christ. The love these people showed me was incredible.

Yet more often than not we avoid the discomfort of dealing with the pain of others; especially when actual or perceived sin is involved.  Why is that? Are we afraid of getting our hands dirty? Are we fearful that we’ll be seen with someone who isn’t sparkly clean and white and that somehow that dirt will rub off on us?  Christ came to earth pure and clean and spent His entire life around sinners.  He actually went looking for them. Or are we just too comfortable in our own shells to step out and see what’s really going on?

This complaint is not with the world at large but with those who claim to be Christians. Followers of Christ.  Those who claim to have accepted the one and only living God with their words and then deny Him by their actions; or lack of.  Shortly before I accepted Christ I met a group of people who called themselves Christians and they were all about getting to know me.  They asked all sorts of questions and were genuinely interested and concerned for me.  This was something I’d not experience in my life before and it was very refreshing.

After accepting Christ however it was not long before I was apparently not supposed to have any issues in my life.  It seems that many Christians are all about getting down and dirty with non Christians and leading them to Christ; but once you’ve accepted Him they have no interest in you if your life isn’t just pristine and pure.  Why is that?  Where does it say in the Bible that Christians are without sin? Are THEY so clean? The Bible tells us to sin less but never suggests that because we have accepted Christ that we ARE now completely without sin.  I have to say that it wasn’t until I accepted Christ that I realized just how much sin I have in my life.  What’s more, while I daily strive to sin less, each day I am abundantly more aware of my sin.

I have been a Christian for more than twenty years now and I have had the privilege of knowing some incredibly wonderful Christians.  I have seen the selfless love of Christ displayed countless times and I am blessed to call some of these people friends.  But I have more often seen Christians abandon other Christians to avoid being seen with the proverbial splinter in their eye.  I have known Christians who would not only seem to have you believe that they have no sin, issues or problems in their lives, but that Christ himself occasionally requests their advise.

Christians are supposed to be the salt and light of the world yet we all too often lack any flavor and our light is dim.  We have become so hung up on not allowing even the perception of sin in our lives that we have led the world to believe that we, as a people, believe ourselves to be sinless.  No wonder when a professing Christian is caught in sin they are jumped on by the world.

I’m not a drinker but I enjoy a drink now and then.  This is not a sin and it’s not a sin for a non Christian to see me have a drink.  I’m not a smoker but I enjoy a cigar now and then.  This is not a sin and it is not a sin for a non Christian to see me smoke a cigar.  When I do choose to have a drink or smoke a cigar those around me take notice and comment.  Poof. An open door to share Christ.  How’s that you say? Well, those who notice I don’t normally partake and comment when I do have asked the obvious question why?  To which I am now free to share my faith in Christ.  “I don’t drink and smoke all the time because I’m a Christian and Christ calls me to be sober.  A drink or a cigar now and then is not a sin. Indulging in either to the point of intoxication is.”

Try ordering a glass of wine with dinner in a group of Christians and see what happens.

Christ didn’t just go to the temple. He went to the real world. That’s where he found those who needed salvation.

Mission trips to Africa are great but they cost thousands of dollars to spend a week or two converting people most will never speak with again. We swoop in, share some Christ with them, give them with a new shirt or pair of shoes and then whoosh out again.  Where’s the follow up? What about the family around the corner who struggles to put food on the table or the guy walking down the street? Why is sharing Christ here at home so much more difficult than traveling around the world?

I submit to you it’s because there is a much bigger investment here at home.  The investment isn’t one of money but of time and effort.  Two weeks in Africa is a working vacation where we’re the center of attention.  We travel from village to village and help where we can and that’s great. But while we write support letters of how we encountered true poverty on our last trip, we fail to mention that the meal we received was most likely a feast reserved only for special occasions or that the village went hungry for a day after we left.

Here at home though we eat better at McDonald’s and complain about the service being too slow at the drive through as the person looking for cans in the dumpster to buy a meal goes unnoticed.  Most of us don’t know all our neighbors much less the issues they struggle with and how we could be praying for them. We’re too wrapped up in ourselves and making sure that we don’t have a Christian hair out of place for the world to see to take the time and effort really care about others.

I’m not saying that Christians don’t care about and love others.  What I am saying is that we have our little worlds and we’re comfortable in them and nothing short of the second coming of Christ is going to get us out of them.  We travel once a year or so to “do God’s work” overseas but most of the time couldn’t be bothered to pick up the phone and call the friend who lost her mother last week to ask how she’s doing.  We’re religious about going to church on Sunday and not missing any Holy days but we wouldn’t dare consider stepping out of our zone to tell a friend we’re concerned about his weight.

We talk about confronting people in love but it’s always in the context of something they’ve done wrong.  The thing about tough love isn’t that it’s tough for the person being loved on, it’s tough for the person who gives the love.  If a friend tells me in love that they see sin in my life it’s refreshing to me that someone actually cares enough to say something.  But for me to be that friend that confronts the sinner, that’s the tough part.  And most of the time we just aren’t willing to do it.

I will be the first to say that I am as guilty as the next person of everything I’ve written here.  It is not my intention here to chastise the Christian community from afar.  It is my intention to hopefully shock people out of their cocoons of comfort and maybe get them to think outside their own worlds.

It’s not easy.  Anytime you invest in someone else there is the possibility of a negative return.  You may get hurt.  You run the risk of opening yourself up and letting someone harm you.  People lie, cheat, steal and any number of things that will make you wish you’d stayed huddled in your cave.  But you also have the opportunity to truly love someone and gain a relationship that lasts an eternity. There is no gain without risk.

“What if I do it wrong?” is always the first question that comes to my mind.  When I was 35 I participated in a workshop called The Barnabas Journey.  Through that workshop I learned that I’d spend my life thinking I wasn’t good enough and continually not doing things because “What if I did it wrong?”

I love a good action thriller and especially when the character has to make the choice of cutting the red wire or the blue wire.  One color sends you home a hero and the other sends you home in a box.  The interesting thing to me is that you never see the hero just get up and leave. He always makes a decision.

We are humans. We ARE going to make mistakes. But I would rather cut the wrong wire and end up in a thousand pieces than simply walk away.  I’d rather be the guy who says “I’m sorry to hear about your loss” and spend 3 hours hugging a crying man than the one who walks out the side door to avoid him completely. I’d rather be the guy who, upon hearing that a friend has chosen a life of homosexuality, picks up the phone and asks to take the person to lunch so I can tell them I still love them in person than the person who simply writes them off.

So when I get stuck in my rut wondering if I should call this person who’s just lost his leg or that one who’s lost her third job in two years, I remember Mike’s dad and what he told the driver in front of him.  “DO SOMETHING! EVEN IF IT’S WRONG!”