“I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none.”—Ezekiel 22:30 NIV
This week I wrestled with this question. Can I stand in the gap for someone else and still keep them at arm’s length? Can I really love and care for someone and not be close to them?
Instinctively I believe the answer is NO. I do not believe I can really stand in the gap for someone and not care about them at the same time. The essence of standing in the gap means caring, loving and giving yourself for the one you are standing up for.
One day an expert in the Law quizzed Jesus about how to inherit eternal life. In the course of the conversation Jesus asked him what was his expert opinion about what the Law taught, he replied:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 NIV)
Impressed with his answer, Jesus replied, “Do this and live.” Not satisfied, the expert posed the question, “Who is my neighbor?” In response to this question, Jesus told the revealing story of the “good Samaritan.”
In the story, Jesus spoke of a man beaten and left for dead on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. Along the road came a priest and a Levite, two men fully devoted to God and His law—two men probably on their way up to the temple in Jerusalem to worship. Sadly both men when they saw the badly beaten man lying beside the road passed by on the other side.
In Jewish tradition there were countless good reasons to not get involved. They could have passed by out of fear of being attacked. They could have passed by for a good holy reason like the fear of being ceremonially unclean if they touched a dead body. Who knows why they passed by, but the sad reality is both men passed by without helping.
The hero of the story was a hated Samaritan. Jews and Samaritans hated and despised each other. They were enemies yet “good” Samaritan stopped and helped. He got his hands dirty. He spent his money. He changed his plans for a stranger in need. You cannot stand in the gap for other and keep your hands clean and your heart safe.
A few days ago Robyn and I stopped to get gas. As I stood at the pump a young man approached me with a strange approach. He looked at me and said, “I can see you are in a suit and tie, I know you will not help me?” I was taken back, and replied “why?” He told me his sad rehearsed story, and I reached into my billfold and gave him a gift to help him along. He was shocked and surprised, and asked, “Can I give you a hug?” I shrugged and said, “Yes” and hugged him.
Meanwhile in the car Robyn was nervous and when she saw the strange man put his arm around me she slipped out the car to run to get help from the store clerk. When we finished our hug the clerk confronted the man and asked him to leave. In the confusion of the moment, I got back in the car and went on my way. In fairness to Robyn it is often hard to tell the difference between being mugged and being hugged.
I don’t know if I will ever see that young man again, but for that moment in time I believe I stood in the gap for him and that act of kindness led to a hug—who knows maybe I turned a mugger into a hugger by a simple act of love. Remember standing in the gap will cost you something—it will cost you getting involved with both your hands and your heart.