Whose problem is it?
by Kevin Collier
Outside the Jarvis L stop the other night, there was a newspaper on the ground, and its headline caught my eye: “54 Iraqis Die in Not Our Problem Anymore.” I chuckled to myself for a second after doing a double-take and seeing that the headline was from the latest issue of The Onion, a fake newspaper that prints humorous parodies on current events. Now that the U.S. has formally pulled out its military from Iraq, any residual strife in Iraq is, that’s right, "not our (America’s) problem anymore."
What struck me most about this ironic headline, though, is how often I read real news headlines that way: not my problem. Whether it's natural disasters in third-world countries, or local accounts of abuse and violence, sadness and loss, my gut reaction is the same. Instead of spending time and energy considering how I could help remedy the situation with love, compassion, and consideration---frankly, it's easier to ignore it.
And now I’ll go out on a limb and assume that I am not the only person like this. I don't think it's because most of us are malicious or antisocial people. Indifference is just the default response to troubles and struggles around us. I have my own burdens to carry, so I can't carry yours. We don’t need to say it because our (lack of) actions show it: not my problem.
So, what happens when people like me join a church? I confess my sin and trust Jesus Christ my savior, and then I get into a church to worship the God of the universe. In the church, I am suddenly thrown into---gasp---relationships. With people. I am surrounded by other humans (as if I’m surprised that they’d be there!). And you know what the problem is? They have problems. They have needs, failings, issues.
So instantly, I know how to react: Not my…
Yet how can I hold onto this attitude when my savior Jesus is profoundly other-centered? One way Jesus presented himself while he ministered on earth was as a servant. His life of teaching, healing, feasting, suffering and dying, he saw as part of his duty as a servant. And who does a servant do things for? Others!
And he calls us, his disciples who love and trust him, to be servants too (Mark 10:44). That entails setting aside ourselves and our priorities and taking on the needs and problems of others. It won’t be easy to see the sins and brokenness of others, but we will receive the joy of being God’s servants and showing his grace to those in need.
While our self-centered attitudes won't be cured instantly, it helps to see our example, Jesus Christ. And while we certainly will fail sometimes at being servants, we can know that the ultimate Servant gave his life so that we could be forgiven of our sins and failures. So now, as a church, we can see one another, with all our struggles and issues, and be able to say, “It's not your problem---it's ours.”
"Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.... Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." - Galatians 6:2,9-10