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Where to Begin

by Rubel Shelly

The FAX of Life

Have you ever had the feeling that something needs to be done to straighten a crooked thing? Right a wrong? Slay a dragon?

Perhaps the issue at hand was a social evil, a family matter, or a church problem. It could have been abortion, teen-age rebellion, or division.

Most often the outcome is merely that we wring our hands, lament the problem is larger than our resources, and do nothing. There’s a better approach.

“But what can just one person do about problems of such immense proportions?” somebody asks. In Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle, the character who appears to speak for him is named Nerzhin. At one point, Nerzhin is pondering this question: “If you wanted to set the world to rights, who would you begin with – yourself or other people?”

The frustration most of us feel about solving great problems is that we have no control over others and their behaviors. Thus we are willing to let the problem remain unaddressed – but feeling pious now that we are at least aware of it and concerned. Every problem you have a true concern about, however, is one with which you can begin with yourself to make a difference.

What can you do about the abortion problem? How about open-ing your home to a scared teen-ager whose choice is between an abortion and being kicked out by humiliated parents? The crisis pregnancy center in your city would love to have you as a volunteer to provide shelter for one of those girls.

What can you do about adolescent rebellion? Spend more time with your own children to build bridges of love and communi-cation. Or stick out your neck to share the pain of fellow-parents in their nightmare of alienation.

What can you do about division in your church? Call a person from whom you have been estranged to have lunch and talk. Or host a luncheon for two people who are at odds to see if you can be a peacemaker for them.

Problems that remain someone else’s responsibility go un-resolved forever. At some point, somebody has to begin to set a matter right. Decades ago now, a London newspaper asked its readers to respond to this question: “What is wrong with the world?” Letters began pouring in and were printed. One simply said, “Dear Sirs, I am. Sincerely, G. K. Chesterton.”

Can you think of anything that needs to be put right today?

–Reprinted by permission from RubelShelly.com




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Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.

2 corinthians 1:3-4