April 13th was Spring Clean-up Day in Waterford Township and I participated in the spring clean-up organized by them. I normally take a day in the Spring to "clean up and pray" and this fit right in with it.
We all know we need to clean up our own space around us. Whether it's our home, our yards, or our own lives. It's important that we take a look and examine our hearts and surroundings--to "clean-up" anything that may have gotten tainted or out of order. However, there is also a time to work to "clean-up" our public surroundings as well. We're not called to live isolated lives outside of the public view. We are called to go into all the world, to go into the public square--not stay cocooned in our own lives, homes, or churches. Be the salt and the light.
As I cleaned up trash along the roadside, I tried to discern the boundary between public and private. I was not sent to pick up trash on private property, just that which interfered with the function or beauty of the public space. In the same way, we all need to recognize the boundaries we have when it comes to the other people we come across in our walk. To what extent do we have "permission" to meddle in other people's lives? I'm thinking of when Jesus said, "first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye." (Matthew 7:5).
Of course there are times we confront our brother or sister and discuss matters of concern, due to our love for them, but always with an attitude of respect. (See Galatians 6:1, Matthew 18:15-17, Luke 17:3-4, Jude 1:23). We care for those believers who stumble, we don't want them to fall or get lost. There is a time to rebuke, a time to forgive, a time to show mercy, and a time to separate. We need to properly judge the time, and pay attention to what behavior we allow, in the public space we have authority and influence over, because of the children and new believers.
After working for a while, I thought if everyone cleaned up the road in front of their own home, there wouldn't be a need for others like myself to do it. Of course there could be all kinds of reasons as to why some people can't so I wasn't there to judge that. There are times we all need each other. And if someone is neglectful, it still affects the public path and needs to be dealt with. Some of what we do as believers is cleaning up after others, due to their neglect or refusal. That's O.K., as long as it gets done, and we don't get an attitude against them in the process. However, remember the borders, some of the trash is personal stuff they need to take care of themselves. Don't cross that boundary. It's not good for you or them.