We have lived with this phrase so long that it is almost as universally accepted as the law of gravity. Yet when we first heard it as kids, we thought it was dumb and unfair. However, most of us have heard it so frequently that we don't even think about it: we assume it is true because we've heard it so much. Despite our promises to ourselves as children that we would never tell it to our kids, we now pull out this little nugget of "truth" and use it with our own children, grandchildren, and students. More than likely, you first heard this axiom of wisdom from a parent, grandparent, teacher, or coach.

And what is this widely accepted kernel of truth? "If I do it for one, I have to do it for everyone!" Of course you probably heard it phrased something like this:

  • "If I let you lick the chocolate icing off the beaters then I have to let your brothers do it too and I only have two beaters."
  • "If I let you leave practice early today, then I will have to let everyone else leave early some day."
  • "If I let you have ice cream ... or stay up late ... or watch that show or have a sleep over or ... then I will have to let your brothers do the same."

And when it comes to people who desperately need help, our subconscious minds rush to this supposed universal truth: "If I do it for this one, I have to do it for everyone!" So we end up doing it for no one.

And here's the rub: it's not true! It's not true about ice cream, staying up late, watching shows, or sleep overs. Now granted, there is generally more peace if parents and teachers and coaches apply this truth, but that is not the issue. There is no reason to not handle individual requests by unique people ... individually and uniquely. It just requires more effort and explanation.

Let's face it: when it comes to helping people in need, we are inundated and overwhelmed everyday with more and more information. We didn't have this thirty years ago. We knew about a few big things going on in our area, but now, we are bombarded in TV commercials, ad slides during the movie previews at the theater, bumper stickers, posters at church, outdoor advertising, website ads, special mailing appeals, magazine ads, and the Hollywood stars and starlets pitching their latest charity. And we also know about our own friends and people around us who are in trouble with health, marriage, kids, and financial issues.

So being overwhelmed, when we see another image of the latest need, we respond a little emotionally, then we usually move on without doing anything to help. Because we can't do something for everyone, we end up doing nothing for anyone!

Our (psuedo-)compassion becomes limited to that little rumble in our gut when we first see and hear about the need, but then it is quickly gone. The Holy Spirit nudges our spirit to help us respond more fully, but we put the concern to bed by thinking, "If I do it for one, then I'm going to have to do it for everyone."

Thankfully, Jesus introduces us to a whole new approach to this problem (Mark 1:35-45 — please read to see Jesus in action on this principle). Jesus acts this way: "I will do for one what I would like to do for everyone!"*

If you look at this story, Jesus had a busy day the previous day (Mark 1:21-34). His day lasted well into the evening after dark (Mark 1:32). He had gotten up early the next morning and went off to a secluded spot well before daylight (Mark 1:35). He prayed. Then his followers, Peter and his friends, found Jesus and let him know that everyone was looking for him (Mark 1:37).

Jesus knows the "One Tune" God wants him to play — his mission at this time in his life. Jesus is determined to stick to this "One Tune"! So he moves from that area and goes to other villages and towns accomplishing his mission (Mark 1:38).

Yet on one special day as Jesus is following his mission and playing this "One Tune" with his life, God places a man with leprosy directly in his path (Mark 1:41). And what does Jesus do? Well he doesn't do what the priest and Levite did in the parable of the good Samaritan who walk by a hurt man in the road ignoring his needs (Luke 10:30-37). Jesus reaches out his hand and touches the man to show this man love, acceptance, and grace, then heals him of his leprosy (Mark 1:41).

As Jesus does this, he reminds us of another crucial principle to help us live our lives for God and love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40): "I can do for one what I wish I could do for everyone!"

In our series called "Just One!" we are learning from Jesus how to balance our lives and do what God wants us to do. Our first principle was this:

I can't do everything, not even everything that matters, so I will do what matters most to God!

We discover what that "One Tune" is by spending time in prayer and Scripture with God, asking the Holy Spirit to reveal it to us. And as we ask this life-ordering question, we also should be asking the Lord to help us recognize our "One Note," our one touch of grace that we are to share with someone this week. And because we are asking God and paying attention to the Holy Spirit and to the people God places around us, I am convinced that God will show us who needs our touch of grace, our "One Note" we are to share this week!

Just imagine what would happen!
We can't do it for everyone, but just imagine what would happen if all of Jesus' followers would do for one what they wish they could do for everyone! We would certainly get a lot closer to blessing everyone!

So let's do for one what we wish we could do for everyone!

* I am thankful to Andy Stanley who introduced me to this concept both in a seminar podcast and sermon you can view here — http://hlt.me/nljp8L