I write this as the snow is melting outside. The initial joy of the season’s first snow is long since passed. The heart-rending stories of people who suffered tragic losses, some who even lost their lives, have poured in. An occasional pretty white blanket of snow with kids and dogs frolicking is one thing. A blizzard is quite another.
As always, however, there were heroic stories, as well: stories of people who took food to others who were homebound... stories of people who ran risks to rescue others trapped in cars or houses while flood waters rose... stories of people who cleared walkways so that others could deliver food, medicines, or needed provisions... stories of people with electrical power who invited others who had lost power to come in and stay and be warm. When times are at their worst, we often see human nature at its best.
There’s a godliness about walking the second mile for people in need. Jesus expressly said that when we give food to the hungry or drink to the thirsty, when we clothe the naked or tend the sick or visit the imprisoned or welcome the strangers in our midst, we have done so likewise unto Him. (Matthew 25: 31-46) Not only, it seems, is there a godliness revealed in acts of kindness but also a recognition of the God-ness in neighbor. “You have done so likewise unto Me.”
The late Professor Peter Gomes, for many years Minister to Harvard University, preached for me some time ago at a church I served in NC. During his sermon he told of a man who regularly hung out on the Harvard campus. Sometimes the man was cogent and appropriate in his actions. At other times (when using substances or when off his prescribed medications), the man acted out in alarming ways which were always merely verbal. He would accost people, sometimes shouting accusations, sometimes quoting scripture verses, sometimes ranting illogically, always at the top of his voice. At the very least, he consistently asked for money and loudly derided those who refused his requests. Professor Gomes said in his sermon: “Whenever I round a corner and see him there, and realize he has spotted me and there is no escape, I find myself praying, `O God, please don’t let that man be Jesus’!” Funny. But Gomes made the serious point that sometimes Jesus does show up in people we would prefer to ignore.
It would have been so much easier to ignore the victims of the recent snow storm, so much easier just to play outdoors and make snow angels and come in for hot chocolate before a fire. And there is nothing wrong with play, snow angels, or hot chocolate. But, there is something very right about what others did in addition to that – about seeing human need and responding, about seeing human hurt and loving, about seeing humans who are beaten and broken and saying, “That looks like Jesus.” That’s the godliness part of human nature. We see all persons as worthy. We love all even as we love the One Who is in all. “In as much as you have shown kindness to the least of these,” He said, “you have done so likewise unto Me.”