Meghan Vogel may seem just your typical high school student.
What she did was anything but typical.
It was extraordinary.
Meghan, from West Liberty, Ohio, had already won the 1600-meter state track championship. Trailing in the 3200-meter race, Meghan saw another runner collapse ahead of her. She could have seen a rival’s fall as an opportunity to run right by and gain an advantage.
Instead, she stopped.
Meghan helped Arden McMath to her feet. She then placed Arden’s limp arm around her neck and she supported her until together they crossed the finish line.
Meghan was modest in her heroism. “I knew any girl on that field would do that for me,” she said, “so I was going to do that for Arden.”
So simple a faith. So profound an ideal -put into practice when it cost something.
A youth willing to express her idealism in selfless action is always inspiring. One may only hope that Meghan doesn’t become jaded when she enters a sometimes ruthless world where dogs still devour other dogs. After all, it’s newsworthy when we see the Golden Rule practiced. And it’s just another day when we see it trampled.
Self-interest is the norm. We expect it. Self-denial is the exception. We’re amazed by it.
For centuries, theologians and philosophers have argued that Jesus couldn’t possibly have thought that people would actually try and live by his Sermon on the Mount.
How realistic is it to think that people – even Christ’s own followers – would recognize their spiritual poverty and mourn over it, live in humility and meekness; hunger and thirst for justice, seek purity of heart and show mercy to others? Is Jesus really expecting his disciples to control their anger, forgive others, love their enemies and trust God for all their needs?
Today? In the twenty-first century?
That’s great for heaven but it can never work in the here and now. We live in the “real world”.
Even life in the church tells us quite often that Jesus’ most famous sermon is viewed as more pie in the sky than food for the soul. The Sermon on the Mount is certainly beautiful. It’s just not very practical.
The problem with this thinking – especially within the body of believers – is that the entire New Testament commands us, through the inner power of the Holy Spirit, to live out the Sermon on the Mount. The Bible tells us plainly that we must flesh out, in very realistic and practical ways, this whole business.
The teaching and preaching of Jesus is clearly intended to directly impact how we live and how we treat others.
If it doesn’t, then we aren’t his true followers.
Jesus said that himself.
Over and over again we’re told to “love one another”. Jesus said this was his “new commandment” (John 13:34). He went so far to say that this was the single, truest, most visible sign of our faith in him.
“By this will all men know that you are my disciples” (John 13:35, emphasis added).
Paul tells us that we are to be “devoted to one another”, to “honor one another” and to “live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12: 10, 16). The apostle was as absolute about this as Jesus was. “Let no debt remain,” he wrote to the Romans, “except the continuing debt to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law” (Romans 13:8, NLT).
It doesn’t stop with the command to love. The Bible goes on to define what love is and how it is shown.
We’re told to “agree with one another,” “accept one another”, “serve one another”, “be patient with one another” , “carry each other’s burdens”, “support the weak”, “submit to one another”, “encourage one another”, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other…” and to “live in harmony with one another” (I Cor.1:10; Romans 15:7; Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:2; Galatians 6:2; I Thessalonians 5:14; Ephesians 5:21; Hebrews 3:13; Ephesians 4:32; Romans 12:16).
The New Testament is the owner’s manual for the Sermon on the Mount.
All this “one-anothering” is what made the church in Jerusalem the exciting, dynamic and vital organism that turned the brutal first century world upside down. It’s what gives flesh and blood to Christianity today.
When an early believer stumbled and fell on the track, someone else cared enough to stop, pick her up, put her arm around her shoulder and help her cross the finish line.
They did it together.
It’s always been true. Nothing about our moral and spiritual obligation to others has changed in two thousand years. Sophistication hasn’t replaced simple duty.
What Meghan Vogel did that day is what you and I need to do – for “one another” – at every opportunity God gives us. In big ways, yes, but also in those simple and unnoticed ways that make God smile and the angels rejoice.
Stop and help someone. Listen. Be kind. Be patient. Pay a compliment. Thank somebody.
This is what we owe each other.
It’s what we owe the stranger in our midst.
It’s what we owe God.
In an age of pain, narcissism and rage nothing so becomes the Gospel as our civility and decency.
This is the love of Christ – in the real world.