Saturday, February 26, 2011

Personal Safety vs. Compassion: Who Wins?

(Photo from Creative Commons)

I've noticed in recent weeks that I have seen a larger-than-normal number of folks walking along the side of the roads near my house.  It's a little disconcerting, because we know most of them live in a supposed drug house of some kind.

One day, a lady was frantically flagging down cars at the end of that particular street.  She scared me--I thought there was an emergency--so I stopped.

All she wanted was a ride to the grocery store.  And some money.  So I drove her, and talked about my Jesus.  She was receptive, and seemed genuinely touched when I prayed for her while she was in the car.  I gave her a few bucks (because that's all I had) and let her go.  I felt bad leaving her, but I was already running late for work, so I set her out in front of Food Lion and drove away.

I've seen her one more time since then.

I didn't have a problem stopping for her.  But the men I see wandering around?  I don't feel comfortable stopping for them, no matter how pitiful they look.  I fear for my personal safety, so I keep right on driving.

It makes me feel terrible, not doing anything for them.  Those poor guys are exactly the ones Jesus would be healing, hanging out with, calling into ministry.

And I drive on by.

I saw an older gentleman wandering around a parking lot I was in today.  At first I thought maybe he'd forgotten where he parked.  But then he just paced back and forth, and I figured out that he was probably begging.  (We have so many people doing that where I live that they've had to restrict the exit ramps and street corners that these transients camp out on.)

I got to the truck and cranked it up, when I saw this man speaking to someone in a nearby vehicle. 

I started driving away, but still felt like I should help him.  I looked around and didn't see him at first, but then I found him, still wandering, and it hit me: 

This guy is just desperate. 

You have probably lost all your pride and hit rock bottom when you are reduced to hitting up total strangers for cash in a parking lot.

I almost went back and gave him some money.  Then I thought about taking him to the McDonald's nearby and buying him a meal, and sharing my Jesus with him.  Thought hard about it.  All the while, my truck was still driving me right out of that lot...

I didn't go back.  I wish I had.  It pains me that we even live in a world where concern for our personal safety stops us from caring for those who hurt, who are in need, who need Jesus.

Tell me:  do you struggle with this too, or is it just me?  Does the concern over your personal safety stop you from helping others?
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