by Dr. Mark Brewer :: If someone has a legitimate request, does that mean I have an obligation to say yes? In a city like Los Angeles, and with a church as active as Bel Air, all of us could be at ten different events at the same time. So, it raises the question of relational responsibilities.If someone sends me an email, am I obligated to respond? If someone leaves me a voice mail, what is my responsibility? I’m not thinking about the extremes. There are some people who think just because they had some random thought your world revolves around them and you must get back to them. There are extremes to the flaky side as well. Some people will never respond to a legitimate request out of laziness or self absorption. But what about the average myriad of requests? I read a Rabbinic saying the other day who said ‘”Life is a short tablecloth. If you move it to cover one side of the table, inevitably the other side will get short changed.” Who do we ‘short sheet?”
When St. Paul tells the Roman church ‘as far as it depends on you, live in harmony with everyone’ (Romans 12) he is appealing to the uniqueness of every situation. It’s hard to lay down all encompassing rules. Yet, we need some kind of grid or ground rules for living our lives. I think the level of obligation is relative to the level of commitment. I am more obligated to help a friend than a stranger…if the request is simultaneous. Paul tells the Galatians to ‘never stop helping those in need, particularly the household of faith’. (Galatians 6) Again, he is prioritizing. The wonder and curse of current technology is we are in touch with more people than one could possibly have real relationship with. I guess my modern prayer of St. Francis is this. (though the serenity prayer has never actually been sourced to him). Lord give me the courage to give myself permission not to get back to unnecessary requests, the discipline to respond to the true needs, and the wisdom to know the difference. I’ve gotta go. Someone just left an email.