Helping Others

July 20, 1999

John 13:35 – By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

Here, in Alaska, there are a lot of unpopulated areas. When someone is driving through such stretches in the winter, the last thing anyone wants is for there to be a problem with the vehicle. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere is not much fun when the temperatures are extremely cold. One thing I have noticed is that if anyone does have a problem and another is passing by, he will stop and help. On the other hand, if one were to break down in town, it always seems that no one will stop to help. This scenario is known as "diffusion of responsibility". This theory states that the greater the number of bystanders or witnesses to an event requiring helping behaviour, the more the responsibility for helping is perceived to be shared by all bystanders. Because of this sense of shared responsibility, the more people present in an emergency situation the less personally responsible each person feels, and the less likely any single person will come forward to help. Put simply, this means that the fewer people who are around to help, the better the chances of receiving help.

Does this also hold true for our faith? Is there a "diffusion of faith" in the church? Do we just say, "There are plenty of other people in the church to help, so why bother?" In today's scripture, we are told that people should know that we are Jesus' disciples by our love for one another. Love is more than just saying the word. There is action that is attached to that love. Loving others can mean helping when it is not convenient. It may mean giving until it hurts, or devoting our energy to others' welfare rather than our own. What is also important here is that if we are disciples of Christ this love should be expressed by all of us — not just a few. The danger is to sit in church feeling, "I do not have to do anything, because someone else will probably do it." Instead, our love for others is to be the motivation for wanting to help, no matter how many others may be present.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that we may know your will and then act on that will. We pray that we will not grow lazy and expect others to do what you have planned for us, but instead we may be tools that you can take into your hands and use. In Jesus' name. Amen.

About the author:

Michael Steckel
Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

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