About a year ago, I sprained my ankle quite badly coming out of the movie theater and needed to go to the hospital for an x-ray and to have it properly bandaged. Thankfully, nothing was broken, but the swelling lasted a few days, and it was some time before I could walk normally.
Later, when I was reflecting on this unexpected mishap, the main thing that struck me from all that had happened was the kindness of strangers. Here is what I mean:
Two thousand one hundred! Not a date but a number. Bono, the lead singer of rock band U2, known for his anti-poverty campaigns, notes that this is how many mentions of poverty there are in the Scriptures: “That’s a lot of airtime.”1 In the introduction to the Poverty and Justice Bible,2 the Bible Society adds, “A concern for the poor and an emphasis on just and fair behaviour flows through the Bible like a river. It underpins the laws of the Old Testament and resounds through the words of the prophets; it forms a core part of all that Jesus said and did and shapes the activities of those who followed him.”
Manifesting God’s love to those whom He places in our path each day is at the heart of Christian life. Writing about this, the apostle Paul went so far as to say, "the love of Christ compels us"1 to do so. In whatever specific ways God leads each of us to reach our part of the world with His love, He has called us to be “the light of the world” and to “let [our] light shine before people, so that they will see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.”2
Hebrews 13:21 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”
I’ve known this verse since I was a child, and I remember imagining that people I interacted with were angels in disguise, which made me try to be courteous and friendly in most situations. Sadly, as I grew up, it grew easier to show a tough exterior and to keep people at arm’s length.
Walking through a botanical garden in Kolkata, India, I was enthralled by the vibrant and vivid colors of the flowers. For a few hours, I felt like I’d been transported away from the hustle of the city and into a world of beauty. On my way out, I popped into the office to compliment the staff on the good job they do in arranging and caring for the plants.
It was a dull and rainy day as I sat at the window of a small brick row house in Leicester, England, watching the rain form small rivers on the window pane. A friend was letting me stay at his house while he was away and I helped care for a terminally ill loved one. It was a half-hour bus ride from the house to the Leicester Royal Infirmary, where I spent most of my days.
One of the central questions that philosophers and theologians have struggled with for millennia is the mystery of what gives life meaning. Everyone wants to be happy and fulfilled, but how can we tell what true happiness is and where it comes from?
It’s easy to be a good person but still be wrapped up in your own little world. After all, you already have more work and other responsibilities than you feel you can keep up with. It’s no surprise that there’s so little time for reaching out to others.
There have been times when I’ve felt I was playing a game of pretending to be a good person; for instance, when I was volunteering for relief work after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Part of me sincerely wanted to help and make a difference, but I also knew it was what I should want to do, and I was happy to be seen as someone who wanted to help.
Consistently thinking of others and trying to meet their needs, especially when that involves personal sacrifice, is a tall order! It’s so easy to be lazy, selfish, and self-centered. Most of us are that way naturally. Our first reactions are usually about ourselves—what we want and what will make us happy. But with Jesus’ help, we can develop new habits and reactions, which with time will help us become more loving and caring individuals.