I was at the pub tonight after church to farewell one of my dearest friends who is moving to the country. As I was sitting there, feeling both sad (for me) and excited (for her), I looked up to a mute television screen in the corner of the room.
In a surreal moment, I could see people speaking of the horror of the victorian fires, their faces shrivelled with pain, all tears and red cheeks, but I could not hear their voices.
At this moment, I came face to face with a dilemma which faces us all: to give our attention to the immediate, or the removed.
I soon looked away from the tv screen, and resumed my conversation with the people around me, focusing on farewelling my friend.
Back home now I realise that there is nothing much I can do for the people caught in the tragic situation down in Victoria, but it shocks me that I could move so easily between the two situations- one immediate, one removed.
I wish I could deeply feel the pain of the survivors and witnesses and do something about it.
I wish I thought "I'm hungry" less, and "they're starving" more.
I wish I thought "I'm tired" less, and "they don't have a bed" more.
I wish I thought "I can't afford that" less, and "they can't pay the rent" more.
It both scares, and saddens me how arresting the immediate can be. I don't want this to sound pious, but this whole situation reminds me why I trust in Jesus Christ, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross. Jesus is the only person who has ever been able to balance this tension perfectly, in the ultimate act of selflessness, by putting the long-term gain of others, before the immediate pain of the cross and alienation from himself/God. I am so thankful for that.
** Of course people make selfless decisions all the time, but I guess Jesus' whole life was an act of selflessness, from his entry to earth in the first place, his relinquishing of his "rights" first through giving so much of himself while on earth, and secondly through his death on our behalf.