Acronyms such as LOL (laugh out loud), BRB (be right back), and TTYL (talk to you later), are vey common in text messages and on social media websites. However, “SOS” is not one that is frequently used. Perhaps this is because asking for help is minimally tolerated and not encouraged in our culture. In fact, it is often seen as a sign of weakness. Instead of nurturing group development and support we have created a culture in which everyone has to prove themselves, so we do not need help.
Nicodemus was an old man who served his community as a Pharisee. In this role, he used his intellect to study God’s Word (the Old Testament), follow the law in the best possible manner, and impart his knowledge to others. Many of his colleagues ignored the meaning and intent of the law and chose to hypocritically focus on technicalities and literal obedience. These actions clashed with Jesus’ teachings and practices. Although we do not know much about Nicodemus, we do know that he was curious enough, albeit embarrassed, to invite Jesus to his home so that he could get his questions answered and learn from this renowned rabbi. This occurrence is recorded in John 3:1-21 (ESV).
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”
This conversation is very important because it is filled with truth. First, Jesus tells Nicodemus he must be reborn in the Spirit, which is a concept not mentioned before this point in the Bible. After condemning unbelief, He explains that He will be lifted up just as the serpent on the stick was by Moses (Numbers 21:4-9). He promises everlasting life to those who believe in Him and segues into the most known verse in all of the Bible, John 3:16.
As a reminder, this whole conversation occurs before the crucifixion. I want to highlight verse 17: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” The key phrase in this verse is “saved through Him”, and Jesus again emphasizes the importance of believing in Him.
This is a good time to do a quick word study on the name of Jesus. The given Hebrew name of Jesus is “Yeshua”, and it means “God is salvation”. So Nicodemus talks with “Salvation” and is told he must be reborn in the Spirit. He must believe in “Salvation” and needs to understand God loved the world so much that He sent “Salvation” so that whoever believes in “Salvation” will not perish but will have everlasting life. For God did not send “Salvation” into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved. Do you get the point here? We all need help. God has provided us Salvation so that we can have the assistance we need, even though we may or may not issue a distress signal because asking for help is against our nature and outside of our comfort zone.
So is asking for and receiving help really a sign of weakness? It is my opinion that not seeking and refusing help is weakness derived from arrogance and an unwillingness to learn. A strong and wise person recognizes when help is necessary and uses it without hesitation or shame. So many of us walk around confused and frustrated, inadequately perform tasks, or fail to meet our goals and expectations simply because we do not ask for help or choose to forgo it. Jesus tells us that such behavior leads to hell. The only way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, according to Jesus, is by accepting God’s Salvation. This means we must acknowledge our limitations and accept the help that is offered to us. Jesus promises eternal life to those who will accept His salvation. Refusing it leads to condemnation, suffering, and eternal death.
In today’s society, generations are at war with each other because we refuse to ask for help and learn from each other. Older generations have experience and wisdom to offer the younger generations. Through their naïveté and positive outlooks, younger generations can give new insight to their elders. Matthew 18:3 says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” We need each other. We were made to be a community not a collection of individuals. We were made to support and complement each other as we interact in our nation, cities, homes, and churches. Instead of acting like a bunch of know-it-alls and failing to effectively contribute to our communities, we need to demonstrate humility, self-awareness, and solidarity.
In conclusion, we need help. If we do not want to spend eternity in hell, we need to accept salvation from Jesus. We need to turn away from our pride and sinful ways, believe that Jesus can save us from our life of sin, and accept His help. This will grant us everlasting life in the Kingdom of God. While we are here on this earth, we need to learn to work together. We need to get rid of our stubborn attitudes, ask for help when we need it, and start living as a community that fosters acceptance, support, and growth. Do not allow yourself or your neighbor to fall through the cracks. Let us not be afraid to send out or answer an SOS every once in a while.