Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Meaning to Life – It’s All in the Helping

“Life is like a dripping tap; if we’re watchful, it keeps reminding us of the things we need to learn and do.”

Let us connect this thought, becoming very specific, with the following:

“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?’”

—Romans 15:1-2 (Msg).

Friends lead us in all sorts of ways. One of my dearest friends wrote a piece recently titled “the garden,” which is a marked exposé of Jesus’ trials at Gethsemane—his Passion. This poetic piece rang true for a reader and my friend then kindly pointed him in the direction of Romans 15:1-6. I can recall thinking, ‘That’s not a passage I’m overly familiar with.’

Enter beautiful exploration! But, first let’s vacillate:

The dripping tap which I noticed when I was on the toilet recently—a tap just too far away to tighten—reminded me of something God’s always doing: he reminds us. For instance, he’s always reminding us through our experience of the very many personal blessings there are in simply helping.

Helping is one of the many ways to experience the Presence of God. And in that space we see and learn the reason for helping. As it folds over itself, helping builds strength in us. And in and of the return fold it can be said:

“Strength is for service, not status.”

—Cited herein above (Msg).

This is how the Lord our God builds upon our strengths. It’s in the helping that he piles brick upon brick with solidifying mortar. Our faith and capabilities and capacities grow. The flow of our lives then resembles a smoothly elegant stream, teeming with life, health and vitality—with not a treacherous swamp in sight.

God is affirming in this; he’s always ready to provide the sort of encouragement we need to do more helping.

At this point there’s an important condition: so long as we’re honest with ourselves about ourselves (regarding our own ‘issues’) and we’re not helping as a means of running from ourselves, we receive the blessings of God in our helping.

The more we help, the more we invest in others, the stronger we get—and therefore, in turn, the more we’re able to help and to provide. This is both simultaneously from a capacity perspective and from a wisdom perspective.

An underpinning theorem of our faith is the abject rejection of self (though not in self-need or against one’s self, as mentioned above) and the zeal for God’s house (Psalm 69:9; cf. Romans 15:3). This motivates us to help as God helps.

Love pleases one’s neighbour, but not in a people-pleasing way. We please them not by gossip, sexual sin or violence, but “for their good, for their edification.”[1]

It is in this type of help that we encourage others; i.e. by the way we’ve helped them.

“It is appropriate to please others insofar as it helps them to advance in goodness, that is, be built up and strengthened in their faith and godliness.”[2]

© S. J. Wickham, 2009.

[1] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 1998), p. 746.

[2] Schreiner, Ibid, p. 746. The author here cites a bunch of other authors. Importantly, this reference is directed for believers to believers i.e. not so much in dealing with unbelievers. The unbelieving person may not necessarily be motivated to be ‘built up and strengthened in their faith and godliness.’

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