be ready [compassion and christian ethics]

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

January 22, 2010

I recently posted some questions that seemed to hit a sensitive spot for lots of people.

See it here: can you give me a ride? [a question in christian ethics]

While I wanted to generate some discussion around this question, I never expected it to spark as much interest as it did. But that was awesome, and I really learned a lot from the conversation that this has generated for me both online and offline.

So here’s what I learned:

I think that everyone agrees that when in a situation where somebody needs help, the appropriate Christian response is to help them. Where people tend to differ is in how they help.

Through this conversation I’ve become much more aware of other ways that I could have helped this young lady without having her jump into my car with me (creating a potential accountability situation). Some of the possibilities include:

  • Call (and pay for) a cab
  • Call someone to or ride with us
  • Call someone (female) to come pick her up
  • Call my wife to let her know what I was doing

All of these scenarios only require one thing… making a simple phone call.

But I’ve also learned that my knee-jerk response closed the door to any of these possibilities happening at all. This is why it is important to be willing to talk before responding.

If I had taken the opportunity to ask her about what was going on and where she wanted to go, I would have been able to gather some important information on how I might be able to best help her out.

Engaging her in conversation may have given me the opportunity to even make suggestions. If she told me that her husband (or boyfriend) was beating her, then I may have been able to direct her to a safe house or shelter for battered women. Regardless of what her need was, I only would be able to discover it by actually talking to her.

Even if I did talk to her and found some ways to help her, I’ve since realized that I wasn’t prepared to really help her out anyway. So I’ve decided that I need to have some phone numbers programmed into my phone. Some of the places that I would need to be able to call might include:

  • A reliable cab company (or two)
  • Homeless shelters
  • Food banks/kitchens
  • Safe houses/shelters for battered women
  • 24-hour medical centers/clinics

If she needed to get to a safe place to sleep for the night, having these phone numbers at my fingertips would have allowed me to call ahead to ensure that we wouldn’t end up running all over town to find what we need.

I would challenge you to also be ready in the same way.

So what numbers did I miss? What other resources do you think we should always have at the ready so that we can respond (appropriately) with compassion when the time comes?


  1. laraj

    I just read your story then hopped over here. I love what you've learned from this. My husband had a similar experience, though it was not with a woman. When he pulled off an exit and stopped at the light, a man was sitting on the side of the road. Hubs offered him money, but he just looked up and said, “The next thing I”m going to do is blow my brains out.” My husband engaged him in a conversation, asked him if he believed in God, and then asked what he could do to help. The man said, “You can buy me a cup of coffee.” Again, Jeff tried to give him the money. He just shook his head and repeated, “You can buy me a cup of coffee.” He never would take the money. The light changed, and Jeff drove away. The whole situation haunts both of us. We, like you, learned a little from the whole thing. The truth is, when it's a potentially dangerous situation, it's hard to think on your feet. We went back repeatedly, but the man was not there. He may have been Jesus for all we know.

    Thanks for this. Making me reconsider some of the solutions we came up with after Jeff's encounter.

  2. bondChristian

    Great insights. The discussion prompted some of the same thoughts for me too. A little preparation can go a long way. It's all about serving deliberately.

    -Marshall Jones Jr.

  3. @bibledude

    You never know when the opportunity is going to pop up… I've also beaten myself up over opportunities missed. I really think that this kind of preparation is the key to being effective in everyday ministry like this.

    I appreciate you dropping by and sharing your thoughts on this! Yours is another scenario that rings true to the heart of what we've been discussing. Thanks!

  4. @bibledude

    Serving deliberately… dude, what an awesome concept! One cannot effectively serve others if he is not prepared to serve. Doing these little things now WILL (as you say) go a long way in allowing us to serve deliberately.

    You rock Marshall! I appreciate you following up with this part of the conversation too. I'm surprised (well, not really) that this part of the conversation didn't generate as much interest as the first part were it seems like everyone had something to say… Oh well…

    Thanks dude!

  5. jeff_goins

    Great blog. I agree. Why do we struggle so much with this?

  6. Paula Whitehouse

    Some numbers to help lines where, if the person isn't ready to go to a shelter, etc, they can call and just talk to someone. These are both great articles Dan and something to definitely think about! One pastor at my church spoke about the same thing (not getting into a car with another female) and in this day and age I can understand why such rules are made. Some people are trustworthy and some are just not. It's made me think that I need to prepare myself for the day when I may need to help someone.

  7. @bibledude

    I think that taking the path of least resistance causes people to not make the effort required to be prepared for situations like this. And… I think that goes for both sides of the arguement (give her a ride vs. never put yourself in that situation). But that's just me….

    Thanks for the feedback Jeff!

  8. @bibledude

    This is a GREAT suggestion! Some of those 'help line' numbers could come in handy by providing additional support when there is hesitancy to follow some of these other suggestions.

    You are right on about the whole being cautious thing, and that is a very valid reason to not just let her into the car. In an offline conversation with some friends about this, someone pointed out to me that with the visible bruises it could be easy for her to blame them on me if she didn't like what I was doing at all…

    I appreciate you dropping by and sharing your thoughts Paula! You rock!


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be ready [compassion and christian ethics]

by Dan King time to read: 2 min