Most of us have plenty of work to do, often too much, pity the poor people who are out of work, but whether we have paid employment or not we keep in our minds the limits of our responsibilities. Years ago I sat in a hospital waiting room and listened as people moved the responsibility of their various afflictions to the government, the doctor, the local day-care centre, their families, anyone in fact other than themselves.
One man who had a lung cancer caused through smoking considered that the responsibility for his disease was the tobacco company, the government, the navy who had provided cheap cigarettes and the hospital and doctors who had taken time in diagnosing what he had. At no time did I hear him say that he had any part in contracting his illness.
Of course, all these people that he mentioned had and have a responsibility. The tobacco companies should have been more open about the dangers of their products even though it may have reduced their sales. The navy should have used basic common sense in providing a product that was likely to cause more harm than good to people in its employ. The government has a duty to see that its citizens are cared for and protected against what is generally bad for people‘s health, and hospitals and doctors are there to diagnose and treat their patients with the greatest possible accuracy and speed.
But, ultimately, we have to take a large measure of responsibility for who we are and what we do.
If a government banned cigarettes on the grounds that they are harmful, plenty would say that their rights were being infringed. The art of living is to find the actual boundary between what is our responsibility and the point at which we need to be protected from ourselves.
Smart though we might think we are, we do not have access to all information, nor are we experts in every field of human endeavor, so we have to rely on others. At the same time, others will rely on us, and we have a duty to see that what we do and say is of the best.
I was watching a program the other day about the London Metro System. It is called the Underground and is the oldest in the world with the longest track and the most stations.
Each day, in the early hours of the morning the fluffers go out. Because air is forced through the tunnels by the trains travelling at up to thirty miles an hour the people waiting at platforms are subjected to a great rush of air each time a train arrives. This blows hair and rubbish off the platform and into the tunnels where it gets trapped mostly in the supports for the railway lines. It is highly inflammable and more than a day‘s build up would create a fire hazard as sparks and flashes from the trains electric system could easily ignite it. So each and every day the fluffers go down the line and dig it out. It may not require a huge intelligence quotient to be able to do this job, but it is absolutely vital to the safety of the system. Most people have never heard of the fluffers and can travel on the underground system all their lives without ever knowing they exist, but without them their lives would be in constant danger.
So each of us, in our lives, contributes to the rest of society and our intelligence and wit and the importance we think we have in the world may have little to do with our value to others. Of course, value judgements are difficult to quantify, but a surgeon that has spent eight years of study to become a competent doctor, and twenty years building his skill as a surgeon, may save the lives of a thousand people a year, yet a fluffer who has never passed an examination in his life saves a thousand people on every train that runs on his stretch of line two hundred times a day. When we look at it in this way, it becomes difficult to say who is the more important. Fortunately, we don’t have to personally decide a list of importance of other people‘s jobs or abilities, nor is it necessary to take up a job or profession out of a list of what other people might regard as significant or of special value to others.
Each of us can usually follow his or her instincts and abilities depending upon our education and family background. I say usually, though we all know that life is not always so generous.
If we are born into a hill–farming community miles from anywhere, the chances are that we will be forced into the same life-style whether we like it or not. But, I don’t want to be drawn into a debate about education and opportunities, except to say that neither education nor opportunities are scattered over the world in equal measure, and there are millions who cannot chose much if anything.
This is not the case with you, the people who are listening to me now. We are among the more privileged of the world who have had a good share of both education and opportunity, but whatever hand life deals us with still have one more possibility to do good.
In his letter to the Corinthians Paul calls it an obligation and, he says, I am in deep trouble if I don’t do it. Well what is it that he feels he has to do? What is it that is so important that he says, I have to do this even when it is personally inconvenient for me?
The answer is to publish the gospel message.
Those who have been brought up in the Christian Church have somehow got the idea that jobs within the church have already been delegated, and those who have been placed in the pews have nothing to do other than sit and listen and be passive members. If that is your view, then you will probably be the last of your race and the gospel will die with you. Where I think the problem lies in this general lethargy of reluctance is that somehow the one who preaches the message feels they are responsible for how the message is received.
However, this is not the case … we are not ever asked to take responsibility for how the gospel is received except for ourselves.
The response of those with whom we share the message is God‘s business. We are distributors of the message, the ones through whom the message is published and distributed. It is actually your job not mine. My job is to tell you, your‘s is to tell others. If you don’t know what the message is, you have a responsibility to find out. You can ask me, come to the Bible Study, read it for yourself go into amazon.com and type in gospel and be amazed at what comes up.
There is no shortage of opportunities to discover … only a lack of will.
If we want a better world to live in, preach the gospel. It is as simple as that.
The gospel leads to better education, better health care, better diet, improved justice, and more opportunities for more people.
Christianity is not a system based on taking from the rich to give to the poor, but building up the poor to become rich through the better distribution of every kind of wealth … most people have yet to discover it and I include those who go to Christian Churches.
Christianity is about forgiveness not sin … it is about positive thinking and renewal not personal reward. It is about realising that even the lowly make an important contribution to society that we need fluffers as well as surgeons, street cleaners as well as space scientists but everyone needs to be a gospel preacher.