In this time of the coronavirus, it has been astounding how people who have never spoken before, even to next door neighbours, have turned to and helped others, how local groups have become a community group, shopping and collecting prescriptions for others and how appreciation has been shown to all those, including the NHS staff, who have put themselves at risk to try to help and heal others. Surely the Lord has smiled down at such activities and surely we have seen the goodness that lies hidden within many people. The trouble is that it takes a terrible catastrophe to unlock this kindness – how sad. But we must hope that when this is all over, that the ‘Great Pause’ will have taught us all that there is something more to life than rushing around all day like headless chickens and achieving very little. The poem which starts:
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
- sums it up very well – we could do well to consider the beauty of God’s creation and to ‘live’ and to thank God for His gifts.
There are many people who, as they look back over their life, have asked themselves the question – 'What have I done in my life, to make a difference?' I would suspect a fair number of people will come up with a rather negative sort of an answer, or perhaps, at best, the answer might be – 'Only little odds and ends, but certainly nothing great, nothing enormous, nothing world shaking'.
And these little differences? Don't we try to do as Jesus told us - that if we help our neighbour in some way, we have also helped Him; so we must wonder just how many little or minute things one has done to others, mostly even without thinking about it, perhaps just a natural thing to do unconsciously even?
Perhaps it’s a thing we do, or a thing we say, or the way we help in some way, even down to opening the door for someone or helping them with their shopping bags – we all interact with others, little realising just how much we do. Often enough we will never know what help we have given – or we might be thanked at some time later, but we can be sure that whatever we do, good or evil, there will be a reaction somewhere, for good or for evil, and this can set off a domino effect and can effect a whole string of people none of whom we know. We can be certain that whatever we do in life will have an affect on someone somewhere.
Perhaps this is why it is so important for us to follow the advice to 'do unto others as we would have them do unto us' and to 'love our neighbour as ourselves'. For lets face it, we might set something in motion which will affect us in some way some time later – and if its for evil, look out, because things have a nasty habit of turning full circle and coming back to us!
I agree it's sometimes very difficult to react with others in a good way especially if they have been a bit nasty to us – the human reaction (and let's face it, the animal way too) can be to 'hit' back – am I not right? When really as Christians, we should hold a tight rein on not only what our mouths say but also our tempers (or at least our irritations). Hard isn't it? But then that brings to mind a little thought about life – everything in life can and will be a trial, not only of the body but more importantly of the spirit – for we must be aware that we are put on this earth not only to interact with others, but also to help to perfect our spirits so that when we return to our proper life in heaven we will have taught ourselves, and also others will have taught us too, to be more able in spirit.
So let us never be cut off from following the 'way' Jesus laid out for us, sometimes with its trials and tribulations, but also with its joys and happiness, with others who are travelling life's path with us, and let the light lit within us by the Holy Spirit light up others who are passing by also on their path through life.
Certainly, we should always remember that although we ourselves think we do such a small thing to others, to the recipient it can be a colossal help, if for good – or a terrible hindrance, if for evil!
In the early centuries of the Christian faith there were quite a number of monks living in groups in the deserts often in their own little cells. Some of the sayings and stories have come down to us and I think the following might complete my little piece. The monks were talking about anger and the wise Abba Poemen is asked by a brother: 'What does it mean to be angry with your brother without cause? (referring to Matt. 5.22).
Poemen replied: 'If your brother hurts you by his arrogance and you are angry with him because of this, that is getting angry without cause. If he pulls out your right eye and cuts off your right hand and you get angry with him, that is getting angry without cause. But if he cuts you off from God, then you have every right to be angry with him.' - to do otherwise would be judging him – and that is 'loving your neighbour as yourself, isn't it!?