If you read the previous post , here is the story behind the story. This is the reasoning that dragged me reluctantly out of bed, into the home and life of another, on a day where I didn’t feel like reaching out to anyone, no matter how much they needed a friend. Thankfully, Jesus’ love compelled me to forget my own fatigue and self-centeredness long enough to visit a family He knew would be gone by the next time I had a day off from work.
Someone even told me afterwards, “I probably wouldn’t go there by myself.” I’m not really sure why. Sure, it’s not considered the best part of town, but seriously? It’s not like it’s NYC, or São Paulo, or Boston, three cities where I have done things by myself that probably were not the best ideas ever, and yet was protected by God. (Note from December 2017: Is it possible that God brought me to the jungle so He wouldn’t have to send so many angels to protect me from the situations I get into in big cities? That was a joke; I know angels are not in short supply and that the real GPS (God’s Protective System) is foolproof and failsafe, whether put to the test in a village or a metropolis. However, maybe God did bring me here partly so my family wouldn’t have to worry about big city misaventures as often).
So, the question is, why should we go visit people in need?
The primary reason is that Jesus visited us when we were in need. As I told this mom that day, Jesus left His perfect home in Heaven to live in this awful, broken, messed-up world, in the midst of sin and suffering. And He gave more than just His time (33 years of it, btw) and His love – Jesus gave His blood, dying to pay for our sin. Then He came alive again, proving once and for all that He is more powerful than sin and death. In Him we have hope and life.
When we think of visiting others as a way to follow in Jesus’ steps, to show our modern-day world a small glimpse of who He is, it becomes a wonderful opportunity. It is also a chilling responsibility. If we don’t go to visit those around us now, while we can, we might never get the chance. They might never visit us. And if no one visits them, they might never hear about Jesus.
In one sense, it doesn’t take much – a little time, a little love, a little initiative. In another sense, it takes a lot. A little time could turn into a long-term relationship. A little love could move you to tears, to compassionate involvement in someone’s life. A little initiative could take you right out of your comfort zone into places you have never been.
Please hear a warning. This whole visiting thing…it isn’t foolproof or predictable. After all, there’s no manual, no “Visiting 101 for Dummies” book. The Bible, of course, has many guiding principles for life and relationships, but it doesn’t have an exhaustive list of situational responses. So we are left to prayer, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, discernment, and wisdom.
It can be messy. You might get desperate phone calls in the middle of your work day, asking for help you are eager but unable to give. You might lie awake at night, mind reeling at graphic descriptions of real-life horror. You might struggle with questions about how much you should help someone and how much you should encourage them to help themselves. You might be uneasy when you find out they know people you know and the two parties are not on friendly terms. I have dealt with all of the above, as a direct result of visiting people in need.
But in the midst of the messiness, it can be beautiful. You might be the one to get a joyous phone call informing you that a baby has been born. You might get to sit in the hospital for a couple hours, watching a young mom, the light of new life shining in her eyes as she coaxes her precious little son to nurse. You might get a warm hug from someone who doesn’t trust easily. You might hear someone say that they know your prayers for them made a difference. In seeking to be a friend, you may gain valued friends for yourself. God blessed me with all of this beauty in that one week of contact with the family mentioned in these two posts.
Whether your experience of visiting someone involves reward or only sacrifice, you will at least be able to leave knowing that you reached out in the name of Jesus. And whether those you visit realize this at the time, or perhaps come to understand later, they will experience Jesus’ love through your gesture of kindness and compassion.