Monday, June 4, 2007

It All Comes Back by Dr. Jim Savage

You have heard it said: "What goes around comes around." When someone wrongs us in a way in which we have no recourse, we often comfort ourselves with this idiom. This is meant to be a warning to the perpetrator the matter is not over; that somewhere, sometime, somehow "you will suffer what you have caused me to suffer." There is a certain palliative quality in that thought when you cannot fight back.

Is there a universal justice in the scheme of things? Will right finally prevail, if not in this world, at least in the next? There can be no doubt that Jesus thought so. Soren Kierkegaard in his "Works of Love" (page 351) gives us pause to think as he expresses another aspect of the Golden Rule: " you do unto others, God does unto you in the very same mode."

In a study of history you will find there is an awesome progression in the human understanding of justice. Our understanding of divine justice has not always kept up with our codes of human justice. You may find that strange. I do. The ancients said: "Do unto others before they do unto you." The Mosaic Law upholds the law of "Lex Talonis": "Do unto others as they have done to you." The Christian law is: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." But, Jesus makes it clear to all that: "As you do unto others, so God does to you in the very same mode."

There is really no place to hide! What we do comes back to bless or to haunt us somewhere down the road. Edwin Markham said it with beauty and clarity many years ago:
"There is a destiny that makes us Sisters and Brothers,
None goes his way alone
All that we send into the lives of others,
Comes back into our own."

That is not a very pleasant thought if we are guilty of inflicting some wrong on someone. It is an encouraging thought for those who do things to help others. It happens. Here is a delightful example of the positive aspect of "What goes around comes around."

Newspaper columnist George Plagenz once told the story of a young physician who delivered a baby into a poverty-stricken family in Montana. The child had one severely deformed leg. The child also had great difficulty in sustained breathing.

The doctor thought to himself, "The other children will call him ‘Limpy’. His life will be miserable. If I don’t do anything for his breathing, he will die. Wouldn’t that be better?" he asked himself. But his commitment to the Hippocratic oath led him to begin breathing into the mouth of that baby. Soon the child’s lungs were responding normally and he gave his first cry.

Many years later that doctor’s daughter and son-in-law were killed in a tragic automobile crash. Their only child, a ten-year-old girl, was left an orphan. The grandfather physician and his wife took her in.

One day the child was stricken with a rare crippling and seemingly incurable condition. The doctor had learned there was a young physician in the mid-west who had been getting excellent results in the treatment of this particular disease. He took his granddaughter to see that doctor.
As it turns out this young doctor was the deformed baby into whose mouth the elderly physician had breathed life some 35 years earlier. Because of his own infirmity, he had specialized in this crippling disease. The treatment of the little girl was successful and in time she was returned to normal health. Some call that coincidence; and I am agreeable to that term as long as you understand that coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.

The good that we do does not always come back with such distinctive clarity. Sometimes, as far as we can see, it never comes back at all. But the Bible teaches that there is a kind of universal and divine justice that works itself out in the greater scheme of things, in this world or the next. The belief that this is true should cause us to thank God, take courage and do all the good we can to everyone we can on every occasion we can.

Let’s hear a loud "Amen" to that!

For more from Dr. Jim Savage:
Riverchase UMC Home Page

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