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  • Erik Hatch

Innocent Bystanders

My wife and I went to Las Vegas to celebrate the New Year with a group of friends back in 2007 into 2008. And I remember vividly our time in the airport on our way back home.

We arrived at the airport a couple of hours before our flight departed – and so food was going to be a necessity. I ventured over to Burger King, where it was obvious they were short staffed and backed up. I finally placed my order (after waiting in line for 10+ minutes) and then waited…and waited…and waited. It was taking 15-20 minutes for each person’s order to be made.

And sure enough, the waiting group was becoming unruly. And I watched as a man made his way to the counter and started shouting at the employee. He was ruthless. He ripped this woman apart and was grossly inappropriate. I stood watching, my mouth agape. And I wish I had some sort of ‘hero’ story here, but I don’t.

I did nothing. I stood, watching. So did everybody else. We were innocent bystanders. But I didn’t feel so innocent.

Early Christians believed that if someone in your community died of starvation and you had more than enough to eat, you were guilty of murder. If someone froze to death and you had more than one coat, you were guilty of murder.

Harsh, eh?

But the idea is simple, yet beautiful. We all live together. We all take care of each other. The term ‘bystander’ doesn’t exist. The idea of an ‘innocent bystander’ is a foreign concept to these early Christians.

And I think of the story in Mark 2. Jesus is speaking inside a house, and it is PACKED. There’s no room anywhere. People are shoulder to shoulder, and the crowd is thick – and intently listening in, I imagine. And so 4 friends take their friend (a paralyzed man) and carry him on a stretcher to go and see Jesus. But when they arrive, there is no room AT ALL to get their friend to Jesus.

So what do they do? They climb up to the roof (with their paralyzed friend, on the stretcher, in tow), cut a hole in the roof, and then lower their buddy inside. Can you imagine this sight? What an inconceivable experience for all involved!

And then the good stuff happens. “When Jesus saw THEIR faith, He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”” Whoa! Because the friends had faith, Jesus forgave the sins of the paralyzed man (and because He’s awesome, He also heals the physical ailment of the man as well). This miraculous forgiveness of sins happened because of the faith of the friends.

They didn’t sit back and watch. They got involved. They lived in community.

Maybe God is calling you to get involved. We’re not made to sit idly by! We’re called to get in the fight – to make a difference – and to, perhaps, cut a hole in the roof and lower our friend inside.

I pray that you and I no longer sit idly by. If this world will know that Jesus is Lord, then maybe we need to proclaim that with our actions.

Erik Hatch

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