The Kindness of Strangers

I’m so excited to be restarting my small-group tomorrow after a summer hiatus!  Thanks to those of you who participated in the Online Bible Study and whose input blessed me so much.

My small-group is kicking off the year by reading Lisa Harper’s book, Stumbling Into Grace: Confessions of a Sometimes Spiritually Clumsy Woman.  If you can’t join us for Bible Study together, you can still read along with your own copy of the book.  I’ll be using it to guide some of my posts in the weeks ahead and hope you’ll be encouraged by it.

Now on to today’s devotional:

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“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'”
Luke 10:27

By the time I made it to the checkout line at Wal-Mart that day, I was a bit frazzled.  The shopping with children while sticking to a budget and using coupons and planning meals for the week on the fly had done me in.  I ran the gauntlet, which any mom knows is the candy aisle that also now comes fully equipped with toy cameras and play cell phones and lip gloss and shiny and wonderful overly expensive nothing toys that every child must have or she will simply die!

Finally, I was done.  Groceries in the cart.  Coupons handed over.  Total amount deducted from my checking account.

Freedom!!

We made it to the van.  My kids piled in.  I loaded every last grocery bag into the back and slammed the door shut.

Then I realized that I had left my wallet inside.

Because that’s what tired, frazzled, totally stressed and generally scatterbrained women do.  We leave our personal identification and all access to our financial lives sitting around the Wal-Mart.

I re-opened the van door and started unbuckling my confused children so we could go back inside and hunt for the missing wallet when I heard him.

The man who saved my day.

He ran over to me holding my wallet outstretched.  “The cashier let me run it out to you,” he explained.

In A Streetcar Named Desire, the character Blanche DuBois frequently says, “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

Don’t we all?  At some time or another, haven’t we all depended on the kindness of somebody, whether stranger or friend?  They’ve saved us from a rotten day and might as well wear a cape and some tights because it’s as good as being rescued by a superhero.

But, here’s the catch, showing kindness always involves at least a little inconvenience.

My kind stranger abandoned his own cart of groceries and delayed his day to run out to a parking lot and find the crazy woman who can’t keep track of her things.

Too often we don’t make the choice he did.  Instead, we choose convenience over service and comfort over love for our neighbor.

We’re busy. We’re tired. We have important ministry commitments that keep us from  ministering to an individual in need. We hope another will offer help.

We miss it.  We miss the point.

Just like the disciples did in Matthew 19.  You see they had grown accustomed to Jesus’ usual ministry pattern.  That day didn’t seem any different: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went into the region of Judea to the other side of the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he healed them there” (Matthew 19:1-2).

Jesus drew a crowd.  Everywhere He went, so did a mob of searching people and those in need. They pressed in for healing and he performed amazing miracles for the people gathered there.

It must have been thrilling to be a disciple of this Rabbi—to see His Spiritual power, His draw, to think perhaps He was the Messiah they had waited for all this time.

And He didn’t just attract a crowd of needy paupers or country-folk.  Oh no.  Where Jesus traveled, so did the powerful elite to examine and cross-examine this religious phenomenon.  So it was on this day as “some Pharisees came to test him” (Matthew 19:3).

Can you imagine this picture?  The disciples are the closest people on earth at the moment to a superstar and they must have felt like a little stardust had fallen on their own faces.  Jesus had mass appeal and the attention of big-shots.

But then some parents did the unthinkable.  They “brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them.  But the disciples rebuked them” (Matthew 19:13).

We normally read this passage and praise Jesus’ love for children specifically, and certainly that’s there.  He instructs His followers to “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:15).

But there’s something else here, too.  It’s not just that He stops for children, but that He stops at all.  You see, to the disciples, these families with their kids weren’t important enough to have a moment of Jesus’ time.  He had crowds to attend to, the sick to miraculously heal, and the Pharisees to spar with verbally.  If anyone in the world was too busy, it was Jesus.

But He took the time for kindness.  He didn’t ignore them in the name of ministry impact.  He accepted a little inconvenience in order to show love because “love is patient; love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4).

And He did it for the least of these.  How often have we been like the disciples, running interference instead . . . making sure that those who come to Christ are worthy enough of His attention?  We forget that He came for all.  He died for each of us.

More to the point sometimes, we make sure those coming to Christ are worthy enough of our attention.

We pass by the dying man on the side of the road just like the priest and the Levite in Luke 10 because we are busy with important tasks, even sometimes too busy in the service of God to serve the people He’s placed along the road we’re traveling.

Could we instead live a Samaritan life, valuing the lives of others, even strangers sometimes, over our schedule and agenda?

Would it matter the next day if the Samaritan had arrived late at his destination?  Probably not.  But it would always matter that he saved a man’s life.  The kindness was worth the inconvenience.  It always is.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

3 thoughts on “The Kindness of Strangers

  1. Louise Carlton says:

    The lifting of another in anyway is what makes the day worth the living, the slam at another or the neglect ruins the whole batch of goodness, the whole day! God help us to take the blinders off our eyes and hearts!

  2. Linda Meredith says:

    Random acts of kindness and sensless acts of beauty is what it is all about! Only because of Jesus’ death on the cross are we privileged enough to be able to serve others! Let’s Roll!!!!!

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