“I don’t need your advice. I don’t need your criticism. I need your support and your help. If you can’t give me those, please leave.” The father of a disabled son spoke those words in a radio interview he gave about his friends’ reactions to his situation. His words struck me because they echoed those I’d heard a few weeks earlier from the political leader of a small, struggling nation.
Giving advice and criticism is easier than rolling up our sleeves and pitching in. Giving advice and criticism keeps us superior to the one in trouble. Wrestling directly with another’s problem means making the problem our own and experiencing our own weakness in its presence.
Too often our world asks us Christians for help only to receive advice and criticism instead. Standing outside of its pain we offer, “Let us explain to you why you are suffering. Let us tell you how you should have avoided your difficulty. We have the answers if you would simply listen to us.”
Too often, as well, our answers are based in ignorance. Too often they serve to justify our assumptions rather than lighten others’ burdens. Too often those in need tolerate our presumptuousness to obtain whatever benefit they can. They damp the flames of their resentment for a later time.
To give in the Spirit of Jesus is to give without strings. To help in the Spirit of Jesus is to enter into another’s problem so deeply that we live it from the perspective of the one seeking our aid.
If we understand Jesus as a human being who was God’s presence rather than God acting as though he were human, we know that he didn’t intervene as an outsider. From within the community he worked with and encouraged people to accomplish what, with God, they were capable of.
Jesus was never made himself better than we are. He was one of us in the struggle for the life God promises. That’s what the world asks of us.