To Help Is A Choice

Martin Buber said, “To help one another is not considered a task, but the self-evident reality on which companionship is based. To help is not a virtue, but a pulse of existence.… Help, not out of pity – that is, from a sharp, quick pain which one wishes to expel – but out of love, which means to live with others. He who only pities receives from the mere outward manifestation of the sorrow of others a sharp, quick pain, totally unlike the real sorrow of the sufferer.”

Martin Buber is one of my favorite Jewish contemplatives. He must not be popular anymore, but his I and Thou is a classic. His thinking has been a deep influence.

This thought takes me to the story Jesus told explaining who our neighbor is that we should be loving. It’s the story of the Samaritan business man on a trip stopping to help a man beaten by robbers and left by the road. And the business man stopped, bandaged the man, and then took him to a place where he could be cared for. And he paid for it all.

Buber assumes we have made the first choice—to help. But then there is a second choice. Do we just toss a coin in the cup? Or, do we stop and help out of love rather than pity?

We have only two commands—to love God and to love our neighbor. Neither is a quick remedy for a sharp pain. Rather, they are a long term response to the deep longing for love and union with God.

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