On Sunday Julie and I returned to New Sharon after a two week vacation. We didn’t make it home before we were back in the “real world,” having stopped at the ICU at Methodist Hospital on our way through Des Moines in order to visit a church member. That was just the beginning of real world experiences. Julie received a call today (Monday) informing her that one of her former students was killed in a knife fight last night. There was other bad news that we encountered in our first 24 hours back from our time away.
I have found myself relating to Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter went with Jesus, James and John up to a mountaintop to get away from it all. There they saw Jesus conversing with Moses and Elijah and heard the voice of God speak. Peter wanted to build shelters for them so they could stay on the mountain, but Jesus would have nothing of it. Instead, Jesus led them back down into the real world. When they had come down the mountain, they immediately came upon a father who daily faced the sorrow and fear of having a sick child. Jesus compassionately delivered the boy from his affliction.
There’s a part of me that wants to stay away from the real world with its pain and sorrow. It’s the part of me that wants to be blissfully ignorant and sheltered from what is happening around me. However, my faith won’t allow me to do that. My desire to be like Jesus outweighs my desire to get away from it all.
Jesus understood that acts of compassion only happen when you’re with someone in need of deliverance. For the boy and his father that meant being delivered from a physical ailment and doubt. For the woman at the well it meant being delivered from self-loathing and an immoral lifestyle. For the wee little man, Zacchaeus, meant being delivered from greed and a perverted self-interest. Jesus came down off the mountain and back into the real world, for it is in the real world that one encounters hurting people in need of compassion.
The same is true today. We all need time away, but we can’t live our lives on one big ongoing vacation. Those who claim the name of Jesus will do what Jesus did. They will resist the temptation to stay uninvolved. Instead, they will reach out to those they meet who are in need. It’s not as easy and rarely as pleasant as being on vacation, but it adds meaning and purpose to life so that the real world is a good place to be, even in the midst of the bad.