"Tell these things to the believers. Encourage and correct them, using your full authority. Don’t let anyone ignore you." Titus 2:15 (God's Word translation)
With our new semester upon us for school, I decided to take a different approach to our Bible time together. In the past, what we did was I would ready a Bible story from some book, and then we might discuss or do a little question and answer session. Then later on Abigail would read to herself out of the Bible along with her personal devotional. But for the new year, the kids were sent home from church with a challenge to try and read the New Testament in 2011. They were given sheets to cross off the chapters as they read, and when I first saw them, I thought that this was a little crazy. Did they really expect that Zander would be able to read the entire New Testament? THEN I saw the opportunity, and I had been wishing I could come up with an alternative for our Bible time.
So now we read the New Testament together. The kids take turns reading aloud, so they are both reading and following along, and then they can cross off another chapter. It's working really well, and they seem to like it. I had decided that there wouldn't be discussion every day, but if the passage we read needed further clarification on my part, that's how we would approach it. Well, we read the book of Titus last week, along with a few others, and the verse we read above must have really stuck with my son.
A day after we read the verse above as part of reading chapter 2, we were in the van driving, and Zander was trying to get Abigail's attention. She was kind of ignoring him when all the sudden he says "Abigail, stop ignoring me! We even read in the Bible yesterday that we shouldn't ignore anyone!" Boy, did I jump on that right away and applaud him for remembering what was read in Bible. The thing that struck me was that it was read in passing. We didn't discuss, we didn't pause there and think about it, we read the whole chapter, and that little bit really stuck with him. And he learned something very valuable with it.
Because last night as we were headed to Abigail's dance class, I was reminding Zander to be a good friend to the different boys that he plays with while we were there. He, of course, nodded and agreed, and then added that he would not ignore one of the younger boys and do his best to try and include him with the play. The lesson that Zander has applied from a simple Bible reading isn't even related to the context of the verse, but that word 'ignore' really struck something in his little mind, and he has purposed that he will not ignore anyone.
You know, it may seem like a very small thing, but how many times do we ignore someone or something, simply because we don't want to be bothered? I think of all those stories of people being mugged or murdered in big cities while crowds of people simply walk by, doing their best to ignore what is going on around them. Even in church situations, maybe someone an aisle over is quietly crying here and there during service, and we do our best to ignore them, because we have somewhere to be after church and we don't want to be held up by hearing a big old sob story. I think that if the church as a whole could take a child as an example and stop ignoring what is going on around them, that we would see a world of difference in the church. So many people have stopped going to church simply because they are tired of being ignored.
Maybe sometimes the act of ignoring comes from a pretense of being polite- we don't want to seem as thought we're eavesdropping or are busybodies. I can't help but think though, that if someone is having a conversation that they're really struggling, and you can step up and offer support, prayer or help in some way, that the idea of eavesdropping won't even come up. They will simply be grateful, and then you will get a chance to share the love of God in some tangible way that could make a huge difference to them.
Let us work harder to stop ignoring those that are around us. If a seven year old boy can read that one word in the Bible and completely change his attitude about ignoring other people, surely us adults can follow suit. God certainly doesn't ignore us.
"Whoever gives to the poor lacks nothing.Whoever ignores the poor receives many curses." Proverbs 28:27
I clearly remember travelling to Washington DC when I was in high school. One of the things that we were firmly instructed on before traveling was that we needed to ignore the panhandlers in the streets. We were told to walk right past them, as thought they weren't even there. That if we made eye contact, we would become a target, and they would be after us for our money- and sometimes they turned out to be muggers. So we were instructed to basically act as though they weren't even there. And since then, I've certainly heard that advice given many times over by people traveling to different cities and different parts of the world, and I can't help but think that is such a horrible thing to be telling people.
Sure, some of those beggars are career beggars. I know the story of the beggar from the Capital steps who actually was quite rich- and made a fortune begging there at the Capital building. He never needed to work, just sit on those steps every day and gather money from visiting people. But who are we to look at a beggar, or a seemingly homeless person, and determine with a glance that that person is indeed a career beggar, or a genuine person in need? God sees our hearts. And if we give a few bucks or a hot meal to someone- whether they are truly in need or just playing a part- God sees our heart and our good intentions to bless that person. He also sees their hearts- and the playing beggars will be judged accordingly. But by God. Not by man.
As we ask God to open our eyes to the need around us, may He help us to stop ignoring so much that is going on around us. Ignorance is not bliss. Choosing to discard ignorance can make a difference in someone else's salvation. That sounds like pretty high stakes to me, and a good reason to stop being so ignorant to those around you.