“Would you stop a bullet for me?
The conversation had been about the practical implications of egoism - “if I’m on my way to a doctor’s appointment, and in an alley there’s a man that’s been attacked a gang? He is bleeding and he's really, really big and there’s really nothing I can do to help but phone an ambulance…if I walk away, what am I? Am I really going to walk away because my doctor’s appointment matters more?” We had just about exhausted all of the reasons why a person might help or not and what that person might get out of helping or not.
For a brief moment we had discussed whether Martin Luther King could have been an egoist, acting on his own long term personal benefit. We moved on to talk about altruism.
And then the question, launched at me by some small fellow on the edge of the crowd. Would I stop a bullet for him?
Some might say that I gave my answer too swiftly.
I must have said it in the right tone as no one questioned that I would. It was an answer that bypassed the brain and came straight from the heart. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know many of the people, or that some of the ones that I knew I really didn’t like that much, the answer was “Yes.” Ask me the same question next week, next month or next year and one would hope the answer would still be “Yes”
“Is that because your religion demands that you stop the bullet, or because you choose to?”
I had been reading John 10 over the week, in little snippets and single verses, meditating and chewing over stuff. I’d got to the verse about the hired man who doesn’t own the sheep. They don’t belong to him so when the wolf comes he just runs away and the sheep are scattered. I had been doing a lot of thinking about hired men and wolves – more about the wolves if truth be told. I thought about the times when I felt that I had been left to face the wolf alone – and sometimes circumstances really look like that. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious anyone between me and the wolf.
The Wolf and I
Who stands between the wolf and I?
On whose support can I rely?
The hired help? He runs away
Where is the man prepared to stay?
Some time previously I had been thinking about Jesus, the good shepherd laying down his life for his sheep. It was not a select few that Jesus died for, the nice fluffy ones, the ones that didn’t look for the holes in the fence or the ones that never got lost. All of them were infinitely precious to Him. All of them mattered because they were His.
I might not have seen the shepherd standing between the wolf and I, but He was there, not watching from a safe distance, but there with the stone in the sling and the sling swinging over his head.
God has given me s shepherd’s responsibility – not a laying on of hands commissioning in a church setting, but in daily life. I am supposed to be on the lookout. I encounter people who feel that it’s just them and the wolf and the hired hand running out of sight.
He calls me to step between a man and his wolf, or between a man and a bullet.