Jesus said, “What good is it to love your friend? Even gangs members do that.” Okay, He really said tax collectors… but I figured gang members would be a modern day equivalent of the cliché bad guy.
Jesus routinely calls us to do more than love our friends. In Matthew 25 He tells us, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.” We have to go beyond our comfort zone. We have to have charity that’s wider than our social circles. It doesn’t do us any good to only love the people we know.
We also have to love the stranger.
And not just the well-to-do stranger who could turn into our benefactor, who can pay us back. No, we’re called to have charity towards the least of these strangers.
We’re called to love the invisible person.
The person who means little to us. The person we hardly even think of. Whose existence we barely notice.
Instead of overlooking these individuals, we need to challenge ourselves to see Christ in them. To serve them as we would serve Christ Himself.
Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me. Matt 25:40 Tweet this.
1. Greet your cashier by name.
When I was a high school math teacher, my biggest struggle was convincing students to do their homework. They hated it.
My winning strategy?
Thank students by name for doing their homework. The response was phenomenal. My fellow teachers couldn’t believe my homework completion rates.
Personal connection goes a long way, it made them feel valued and appreciated.
I’ve carried this lesson with me ever since.
Grocery stores make it so easy – everyone wears name tags! Greet your cashier by name. Thank her for ringing you out. Thank her for bagging your groceries. Ask how she’s doing today.
Let her know she’s appreciated.
Don’t treat her like a check-out machine, because she’s not. She’s a real living person who deserves respect. Show her she’s valued, recognized, seen.
2. Bring your garbage man a drink.
This winter, I started sending Hero out early every Monday morning with a hot chocolate for our garbage man. At first, he was surprised to see my 5 year old, waiting for him in the snow.
From my vantage point peeking past the window curtain, I saw his eyes light up as Hero passed off the hot drink.
He waved as Hero tromped back home. And waved again as he disappeared through the front door. And then again as all three kids pressed their noses to the window to watch him empty the dumpster, fogging up the pane with their warm breath.
That small gesture made his day. His week. It’s the highlight of his route.
We try to remember to bring him a steaming hot chocolate or an ice cold lemonade every garbage day, because we know how much it means to him. He told me this morning, “Of all the people on my route, you guys really take care of me. I love my job, and it’s people like you who make it all worth it.”
Honestly, I can’t imagine loving that stinky dirty job, and I want him to know how much I appreciate the fact that he takes care of it for us.
“Of all the people on my route, you guys really take are of me. I love my job and it’s people like you who make it all worth it.” Tweet this.
3. Get to know the cleaning lady.
When you’re done at the office, it’s her turn to come in and do all the unpleasant things. Take out the trash, sweep the floors, scrub the toilets.
Do you know her name? Her interests? The ages of her kids?
The lady who tidied up my classroom was a lovely middle-aged Hispanic woman. Despite her limited English and my limited Spanish, I discovered that she had a daughter my age in Peru, whom she was sending money home to. I reminded her of her daughter, whom she rarely got to see.
We had very little understandable verbal communication, but there was an unspoken connection.
We left each other gifts and treats, shared smiles and waves, and brought a little extra joy into each other’s normal days. Your coworkers may pass her by, but you don’t have to.
It takes just a few moments to get to know her. To introduce yourself. To leave her a note and a piece of chocolate.
Recognize the dignity of her hard work.
4. Wave and smile at the construction flaggers.
They stand in the road all day long, turning the sign endlessly:
Hundreds of stony-faced people drive by them every day. Break the habit of indifference.
As you inch slowly and cautiously by, catch their eyes.
Offer your biggest smile and most enthusiastic wave. Shout “thanks!” if you’re window is open. See the life return to their bored faces. Brighten their day for just a moment.
5. Meet the soul behind the cardboard sign.
I know, you’re nervous. I was too.
Especially when I had my kids in the car. It’s just so hard to pull over, roll down your window, and make yourself vulnerable to the whims of a less-than-reputable looking stranger.
But one day, I felt God calling me to put the car in park. Get out and walk up to the man. Shake his hand, learn his name, and give him the spare cash I had in my wallet.
When he looked up from behind his “help a veteran” sign, and his eyes met mine, I saw Jesus there.
I asked him his name, and introduced myself. I learned his story and prayed with him. I realized I love this stranger as a brother in Christ and I want to help him meet his daily needs.
God called me to give from my excess to help him in his lack. To get to know him, to write him a personal note, to bring him a cold water on a hot afternoon, to pray for him every day. And what’s beautiful is, he’s praying for me to.
He’s not just another bum.
He’s my brother.
I’m not saying you should be best buddies with every homeless guy, but if God’s calling you, open your heart. You may need his humble prayers as much as he needs your spare ten dollars.
When he looked up from behind his sign, I saw Jesus there. He’s not just another bum. He’s my brother. My friend. Tweet this.
Stranger no danger
We’re conditioned to stranger danger in our society. This attitude often holds us apart from anyone we don’t know. Stranger danger is seen as a virtue.
But charity is a virtue that trumps fear.
How is God calling you to stop and see the hidden Christ? Open your heart to respond to the call. To serve Him by serving the least of these. To love them as you love Jesus Himself. To practice true charity.
These people may not be in your social circles, but they’re an important part of your spiritual life. They’re the embodiment of Christ in His need. They’re an opportunity for you to do unto Him. It’s time to stop overlooking their existence.
Reach out to Christ in a stranger today.