How Good Are Your Reflexes?

I was recently on a long bicycle ride, as I am apt to do in the summertime, and witnessed a minor accident when I was on the descent down the final hill. There was a man who appeared to be in his mid-thirties off to the side of the road half way down the hill standing next to his bicycle. The rocky ground he stood on was on a slight incline, causing him to lose balance, falling backwards to the ground. He simply fell over. If he had fallen on a grassy surface, it would not have been a serious fall. However, the ground was very rocky, and though I couldn’t tell for certain, it was easy to imagine that he could have hurt himself. I had about 5 to 10 seconds to react – enough time to stop and help. But I didn’t. I slowed down slightly and looked behind after I passed, seeing that the car behind me had stopped. The people in that car had acted out of concern for this stranger, but I did not for several reasons that essentially add up to poor judgment.

I learned a big lesson that day. My reflexes to help and express love for my fellow man need some exercise. The familiar parable of the good Samaritan immediately came to mind (compare Luke 10:25-37). In that story, a lawyer tested Jesus Christ, asking who his neighbor is, whom he is obligated to love. Jesus responds by telling a parable of a man, half dead on the side of the road, who the priest and a Levite both pass by. But the Samaritan sees the injured man, and offers him the compassion and help he needs. The answer to the question of whom we are obliged to love Jesus expresses in the form of a question to the lawyer. “‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (Luke 10:36-37). It was the Samaritan – that despised foreigner – who was the loving neighbor, acting with love and compassion for the injured man in the ditch. This is the example Jesus instructs us to follow.

The direct parallels of this story to the accident I witnessed still sting my conscience. While I cannot go back in time to make a better decision, I am able to use the experience to improve my decisions going forward. Even though this story is about a regret of my own, I believe that the lessons I learned are generally relatable. We all want to be the one who makes virtuous decisions perfectly. But we are all imperfect. We all make mistakes. We all miss opportunities for compassion. We all can do better. And that’s what this editorial is about – getting better at making virtuous decisions and acting upon them instinctively, without hesitation.

In the most recent Comments on News and Prophecy and sermon, “Will YOU Have Eternal Life in God’s Kingdom?” by Norbert Link on June 26, 2021, he made the emphatic statement about the importance of having an urgency and zeal in our lives as the time remaining before the return of Jesus Christ rapidly approaches. The question that we should all be asking ourselves is, “What do urgency and zeal mean for me?” Our answers will all be personal, but in whatever way we put urgency and zeal into action should demonstrate our readiness for the return of Christ as if it was to happen NOW. [We know, of course, that Christ could not come “tonight,” as certain prophecies must be fulfilled first. But the urgency of getting ready must be there. Also, if we were to die today, we would be facing Christ within the next second of our consciousness, when we are resurrected.]

How does urgency and zeal relate to a missed opportunity to help a stranger who has fallen in the ditch? Quite simply, our readiness for the return of Christ means that we actively, continuously, in every moment, and without hesitation work on the fulfillment of our Christian conversion. When we have an opportunity to act righteously, we do it without thinking twice about any inconvenience it might cause us. When presented with the call to follow Christ and participate in the Work of the Church, we appreciate the magnitude of the opportunity and do it (compare Matthew 4:18-22). When we have a decision to make to leave our worldly possessions behind in a moment, we do it (compare Luke 17:31). The prioritization of developing spiritual fruit above all other gain is how urgency and zeal work. Urgency does not work by sitting around to contemplate other options. Zeal does not work by having thoughts without action. This Way of Life must be at our core, directing all of our thoughts and actions if we want to be ready for Jesus Christ to return.

Urgency and zeal sound like great characteristics, but how do we develop that frame of mind and behavior? The answer is simple. Practice. “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous” (1 John 3:7). When we practice righteousness, we increase our ability to respond instinctively with righteousness. Remember that we are flesh and blood, carnal beings. Because of this, being mindful of spiritual things and bringing spiritual fruit to maturity do not come naturally. Only through spiritual practice will we be able to prepare ourselves to have the zeal and urgency that make us ready for the return of Christ.

Practice takes place in the little things just as much as the big things. “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much” (Luke 16:10). In innumerable ways we can consider the opportunity to express our zeal. It could be in the way we treat our family members, how we interact with a server at a restaurant, the bigger decisions surrounding our commitments in life, or simply how we respond when we see someone in need. In whatever ways we practice, our goal is to aim for an immediate reaction directed through spiritual motivations, so that it becomes a reflex. We will certainly stumble along the way as we practice, but it all helps us to learn. And if we don’t practice righteousness, we are not preparing the way Jesus instructed us. The consequences of failing to practice are dire. But we were not called to this Way of Life to fail. We can rest assured that if we actively work to please God through obedience and actively developing righteousness, we will be ready when Christ returns.

©2023 Church of the Eternal God