Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Picture By Norman Rockwell
Sometimes it can be difficult to strike a balance in the doing of good. As a student of life in the Jesus way, the loving of others pushed past the boundaries that I often become so comfortable to stay behind. Even in being a somewhat outgoing person, I do have a zone of comfort that I exist in. I suppose we all do.
The combination of religion and good works is one that can become dicey prospect. Sometimes people will do good works for the photo op, sometimes they will do a good deed just for the potential opportunity to share their particular religious perspective with the deed recipient, and other times people do good because they are compelled to quietly help someone and that gift of giving is all the payment they ever desire.
There seems to be a wide range in the good deeds scale. According to Scot McKnight in his book, 40 Days living the Jesus Creed, this scale is a vast one.
"Many today are concerned about the doing good works solely so we can have an opportunity to tell others about Jesus. Other worry about being too aggressive in evangelism. So, how can we steer between these two poles and still let our good works lead to God?" (Pg. 84, 40 days living the Jesus creed, McKnight)
I have to say that I've been a part of and also experienced the vast range of good deed efforts in my life and time in the church. In my youth and some of my adult life, I'd have to say some of my good deeds were somewhat of a ruse for what should have been explained as direct evangelism efforts. Today when I think about those times, I feel uncomfortable with this manipulative approach to outreach. If the purpose of an effort is evangelism, that is fine, I just feel it is important to be up front about the intention of the effort.
Too many times I've seen helps efforts disregard or dismiss the real,tangible,physical and emotional needs of a person all for the purpose of telling them about Jesus, praying a prayer for salvation, and walking away satisfied with their own evangelism/outreach campaign; only to leave that person in the same physical state they were before they were spiritually bombarded.
James 1:27 says, "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world."
Caring for the needs of others has the everyday face of practical care and sincerity that sometimes is lost in the name of evangelism "campaigns".
McKnight explains this further by explaining:
" We begin with behavior - doing good thing for others. Next we check our motive: good deeds need to be propped up by doing good for the sake of the other and for the sake of God. We also have confidence: our prayer is that our good works will somehow be used by God to show his goodness. Finally, sometimes there is an opportunity: people of the Jesus Creed wait for God to prompt someone to ask the question, "Why are you doing this?" (Pg. 84, 40 days living the Jesus creed, McKnight)"
It's when I consider the words, " Love your neighbor as yourself." that I pause to think how I would feel if someone were only to come to help me in some way because of their desire to peddle their philosophy to me. I would feel manipulated, foolish, and like I was being seen as less than in the eyes of the helper. I would not desire to feel or be treated in this manner and I'd fathom a guess that others would not like it much either. I think not.
When Jesus looked upon people in need his first response was compassion, after that he did what he could to help. What if I could begin grasp what good works sincere compassion could accomplish in this world around me? What if help could be given unconditionally and with no strings attached. What if I were more focused on the needs of others than I was with my own? What if I was quiet long enough for someone to ask the question, "Why are you doing this?" and my truthful answer was, "Maybe by helping others I can begin to learn more about this God of love. Thank you for helping me to become a better student in the way of Jesus."
We all are on a journey. I hope that my deeds are more help, less ego, and quietly, gently point to the compassionate face of Jesus. There is so much to learn, there is still so much to learn.