The Right Thing

In Truth and Duty, Mary Mapes describes her great-grandparents who farmed for many years in Washington State’s fertile Skagit Valley. After Pearl Harbor, their neighbors as well as other loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry in the valley were transported to internment camps for the duration. The Mapes went to the train station to see the Sakumas off, and publicly embraced them. They promised to work the farm for them as if it were their own and that it would be waiting for them when they returned. Not all neighbors were so helpful. Some took the opportunity to steal farm land in the owners’ absence.

The Mapes already had plenty of work to do at their own place. The additional work was an extraordinary burden for them, and it was made much more burdensome by the criticism and opposition of small-minded people. Some charged them with sympathizing with the enemy and even with being traitors. Nora Mapes sometimes said in later years “There is nothing harder than doing the right thing.”

Today, we see the injustice of the whole episode, easily condemn the majority and imagine we would naturally side with the Mapes. But at the very moment the right thing needs doing, most folks look away from the clarity of right and wrong or even deny the distinction. The easy thing is to join the crowd in doing the wrong thing, and the crowd rarely gets it right.

The Bible gives many examples of ignoring or even opposing the herd to follow the Lord. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13 and 14:
“Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”

Believing in Jesus Christ for salvation can be a lonely experience. Family or friends who would be OK with a conversion to Buddhism or almost anything else can react with rage when someone is saved by the grace of God.

Serving the Lord can also be a solitary walk at times. A very small circle of people comprehended and embraced God’s will for Mary’s life. The same can be said for Jeremiah and others. I particularly appreciate Jeremiah’s agony of soul. He did the right thing, he did it for years on end, and he often did it without the support of others.

Of course the Lord is with His people. One of the names of Jesus is Immanuel or “God with us.” A key component of the Great Commission is the promise “I am with you.” Isaiah 43:2 is a magnificent promise: “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee;
And through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.”

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