Once I was on the ferry in Hong Kong. I had maybe 25 cents in my pocket and two days to go before I got on the ship to go home. I was thinking (I was 17) that maybe I had spent all my money too fast, without thinking about what I was going to eat for the next two days.
So as I stood there in the middle of that crowded ferry, I look around and there, sticking up over the crowd, I see the face of a friend of mine. A friendly face in the middle of a crowd of strangers speaking Cantonese is a great sight to see. Jim gave me $10 and I had food for the rest of my trip. I did manage that $10 carefully. It was easier to eat for two days on $10 back then.
But what I remember most about that time is how much better I felt as soon as I saw his face. One minute I was getting tense and worried and the next I am relaxing even before I get close enough to get his attention.
There is something about being in a bad spot and feeling alone, about not seeing anyone who knows you or cares about you, that knocks you down and makes it hard to even think clearly. But it changes when you know someone cares; when you can see you aren’t alone. Sometimes I think that the whole world is much like I was on the ferry – pockets empty and wondering if I’d messed it up beyond recovery – looking around hoping to somehow spot a solution. I think there are a lot of people looking around hoping to see a solution, a helper, a friend. And I think one of the reasons Jesus came to earth was to be that friend who we could look for when things got bad and see him standing there.
Jesus had a lot to say about being a friend, about doing what was good for other people, about being someone who could be trusted and counted on. But Jesus did more than talk about being a friend; Jesus demonstrated what it meant to be a friend over and over again. He walked around being a friend, doing whatever needed to be done to make someone’s life better. He healed sick people, fed hungry people, taught outcast people and loved them all. He rebuked selfish people, accused hypocritical people, and encouraged broken people. And when people complained that he was spending too much time with the bottom of the barrel kind of folks, Jesus merely replied that sick people need a doctor a lot more than well people do.
But what really impresses me is that Jesus spent his time with those people, the ones who needed help, the ones who had it all messed up, the ones the “good people” weren’t comfortable having around. So I am really thankful that in our community we work together to be a friend to people going through bad times. And I hope that when those people look around, they’ll see us and see Jesus at work in us, at work through us to bless the people who need someone to care.
Jesus’ own words are so challenging; “Whatever you would have people do to you, you do to them.” Wouldn’t the world be a different and better place if we did?