When describing the sentimentalism of German philosopher, Max Scheler, Albert Camus said of him: "Humanity is loved in general in order to avoid having to love anybody in particular". ("The Rebel" Part One). This is a common door of escape for those who want to comment on everything, but who are never quite willing to commit to any one thing. There are people who pontificate on benevolent causes, but who cannot be civil to the people who live next door, or even those who live in the same house with them. Eric Hoffer in his book, "Reflections on the Human Condition", wrote: "We all have our private ails. The troublemakers are they who need public cures for their private ails". Politicians and preachers seem to have a proclivity to generalize in order to avoid the heavy lifting of particularity.
In the Quarterly Review of July, 1914, Conservative British Politician, Leo Amery, said of Herbert Asquith, "For twenty years he has held a season ticket on the line of least resistance and has gone wherever the train of events has carried him, lucidly justifying his position at whatever point he happened to find himself". When I read that sophisticated scorching indictment I saw the faces of many people I have known through the years - occasionally and embarrassingly even my own face.
A friend and colleague, the late Dr. Charles M. Prestwood, who had unusual insight into the games people play in order to gain power without taking responsibility, wrote: "The divisions of our day in part grow out of the fact that as slaves we begin by demanding justice and end by wanting to wear a crown". There are some who never quite understand that we cannot wear the crown of thorns and also have the thirty pieces of silver.
The truth is that our inclination to comment with authority and casually offer serious advice on every condition we encounter should be accompanied by an equally serious willingness to become actively involved in affecting the solutions we suggest.
In his book, "You Can Remember to Forget" Dr. James Moore tells a simple story that subtly instructs us in this matter.
A pastor in the mid-west was preaching for a friend one Sunday morning. He went early to the church to see what it was like and get the feel of the atmosphere. As he walked down a long hallway, his sermon notes in one hand and his pulpit robe draped over the other arm, he came upon a large room used as a nursery for pre-schoolers. Glancing in he saw a little boy who looked about 4 years old sitting all by himself. The little boy said, "Hi, my name is Tommy and I am all by myself in this big room."
This visiting preacher had done a lot of counseling and he decided to use his non-directive counseling technique on the little boy. He said: "You feel all alone in that room!" The little boy said, "I AM all alone!" Trying to assure the child, the minister said confidently, "Don't you worry now. I am sure that before long somebody will come to be with you." With wistful eyes, little Tommy looked up at him and said: "Why not you?" Ah, that question should have become the sermon for the day!!
Jesus seldom used generalities in addressing the ills of society and the sins of individuals. There is a frightening particularity that runs like a thread throughout the whole Bible. You just cannot read the Bible without hearing the constant echo of the question, "WHY NOT YOU?"