The kindness of strangers
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Leviticus 19:34
Devotional text: Acts 20:35
There are many kinds of people in today’s world. They come in all shapes and sizes and various colors of skin. But what does God see when he looks at us? We have all been made in God’s image. Doesn’t that mean God sees us as all the same?
What it comes down to, I think you will find, is our attitude. In today’s world of terrorism, bullying and even those who have the attitude of just walking by when seeing someone who needs help, where is the compassion? Who shows God’s mercy? How do we love our fellow human beings?
You don’t have to be a Christian to show kindness to someone. In fact, the Bible talks about being kind to strangers, no matter what your walk in life, as well as strangers being kind to someone in need.
I think many of us remember the story of “The Good Samaritan” found in Luke 10:30-37. It’s the story of a man who was accosted by robbers, stripped, beaten and left for half dead. As he lay on the road, a priest happened by. The priest crossed to the other side of the road and walked on. Then, a Levite, also on the same road, saw the man and passed by on the other side.
Finally, a Samaritan came by, saw the man as he lay in the road, and, taking compassion on him, fixed up his wounds the best he could. He took him to a nearby innkeeper where he paid the innkeeper to take care of the wounded man until he returned.
In this parable, told by Jesus, the questioner was identified as “an expert in the Law (of Moses).” His question to Jesus was: “Who is my neighbor?” Following his question, Jesus told the story of the good Samaritan. When he asked his questioner which of the three men on the road acted neighborly to the injured man, the reply was, of course, “the Samaritan.”
Jesus then replied to the law expert, “Go and do likewise.”
In this parable, Jesus is making sure we know who our neighbors are: they are everybody. Although the Samaritans were looked down on by the Jews, in the parable, it was the Samaritan who came to the aid of the injured man. It is the compassion and kindness of the least that makes Jesus’ point: we are all neighbors. We should treat one another as we would treat anyone whom we love.
There are numerous scriptures that speak to us about how to be kind to one another. A favorite of mine is from Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
This is the one we get the Golden Rule from that tells us to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
When faced with an incident where someone needs help, think of that person as yourself and what you would most need. Then, if possible, do it. If not possible, sit with that person until help comes, or, if able, call for help yourself. That is being a good Samaritan; that is what it means to show kindness to strangers.
In the next scripture, found in Galatians 6:10, we again see that God expects all people to help one another, no matter who you are: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
The above scripture is not saying we should help fellow believers first, not at all. It is merely saying that as believers who know one another and meet together regularly, we need to be aware of one another’s needs and to be of assistance as we are able.
1 John 3:18 reminds us that scripture is not just something to read and discuss with one another, but it takes action: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.”
A kind word, deed or gesture can turn a sour day into a joyfully blessed one. As humans, we tend to feel unhappy when someone is not kind to us, especially when we expect that person to help us. Sometimes, we have those days.
We all feel sad, or let down, sometimes. It could begin with a word or action from others who disappoint us, or it could just be a trying start to a day when everything seems to go wrong. We all experience those days.
However, we don’t need to stay in those negative, unhappy feelings. We can look for the kindness of strangers, as we too show kindness to others.
As an example, I had that kind of day recently, but, as I went about my day, things changed to make it a good day. It was through the friendliness and kindness of strangers.
It started at a library, where I was greeted by a friendly librarian who eagerly showed me how to use their new copy machine. She made it so simple.
As I was making my copy, another patron came in and was waiting for the copier, so we struck up a conversation. Two strangers, just sharing a little light chat while going about our business.
Those two encounters took away the previous disappointment and brightened my day.
We all have the ability to do this for someone. We never know what someone is going through. To spread a little cheer in someone’s life is a great way to show kindness. Also, the result is that not one person feels better, but two.
I’d like to share a scripture from 1 Peter 3:8-9 that is another favorite of mine. Maybe it will speak to you too. “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart and a humble mind. Do not pay evil for evil, nor reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
Finally, this last scripture is also a wonderfully uplifting one, from Hebrews 13:2: “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”