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Begin with Me
by Rubel Shelly

    War in the Balkans. Shootings in a Colorado high school. Killer tornadoes in Oklahoma, Kansas, and Tennessee. Division in churches. Do you ever feel overwhelmed with the sense that something crooked needs to be straightened? That some wrong needs righting? That there is a dragon somebody needs to slay?

    More often than not, the outcome of our collective hand wringing is that we lament how much bigger the problems are than our resources — and do nothing. Surely there’s a better way. “But what can one person do against problems of such immense proportions?” someone asks.

    In Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “The First Circle,” the character who appears to speak for him is Nerzhin. At one point, Nerzhin ponders this question: “If you wanted to set the world to rights, who would you begin with — yourself or other people?”

    The frustration most of us feel about solving great problems is that we have no control over the fortunes and behaviors of other people. Thus we are willing to leave the problem unsolved. At least, though, we feel pious that we are aware of it now and concerned about its effects. The truth is that every problem about which you have a justifiable concern is one where you can begin with yourself to make a difference.

“If you wanted to set the world to rights, who would you begin with — yourself or other people?”
    Concerned about the war in Yugoslavia? Pray for a just peace, and encourage your church to help the refugees whose faces haunt you from the evening news.

    Worried about angry and alienated kids? Build bridges of communication and love with your own children. Or stick your neck out to share the pain of a fellow-parent and support him or her through a crisis with a troubled child.

    Horrified over scenes of weather devastation? Send a personal or company donation to a reputable Christian agency helping provide emergency aid to victims.

    Grieved over division in the body of Christ? Call a brother or sister from whom you are alienated, and get together to talk and pray about the matter. Or set up a luncheon for two who are at odds, and try to be a third-party peacemaker for them.

    Problems that remain someone else’s responsibility stay unsolved forever. At some point, someone has to begin taking positive steps to make things better.

    Years ago a London newspaper asked its readers to respond to this question: “What is wrong with the world?” Erudite letters poured in and were printed. One simply said: “Dear Sirs: I am. Sincerely, G.K. Chesterton.”

    If something you know needs fixing, perhaps you can be the point of beginning.

From Rubel Shelly's "FAX of Life" printed each Tuesday. See http://www.faithmatters.com for previous issues of the "FAX of Life."

HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
Copyright © 1996-97, Heartlight, Inc., 8332 Mesa Drive, Austin, TX 78759.
© 1999 Rubel Shelly. Used by permission.