I passed by a church yesterday and on the marquis, it read, “What can one person do?” I assume the church leaders were talking about outreach, as in “What can one person do about homelessness?” or “What can one person do about children without fresh water?” or “What can one person do to spread the gospel?”
It got me thinking.
In the whole of the Gospels we read each week, if you add up all the miracles and speeches Jesus was reported to have done or made 40-100 years after the fact, you won’t come up with 100 things. If we go with the estimate that after he appeared on the scene his ministry lasted three years before the Romans executed him, that means he walked in Jerusalem and Galilee and surround for just over 1,000 days, according to our calculations of the length of a year. What was he doing on those other 900 days?
Why in the world did crusty fishermen who’d grown up and into prescribed lives—men who probably couldn’t read a lick, men who complained every day about the oppressive government or heat and how the costs for a new net or boat had skyrocketed, men who groaned every time when the tax collector came by that the taxes didn’t go for anything good for them—why would they have just dropped everything and gone with a fellow who “didn’t have a place to lay his head,” had apparently just up and quit his carpentry business, and made no promises about ending taxes or the immigration of the Samaritans or getting rid of the beggars down by the pool or raising an army to impose the tenets of the Hebrew faith on the wretched Romans?
Imagine this. You’re sitting at your desk typing an email, or you’re in the warehouse driving the forklift, or you’re holding the “Stop” and “Slow” sign on the highway being repaired. You’re doing what you’ve always done, day after day. There’s a family waiting for you at home, or a bunch of guys at the bar where you watch your favorite sports teams play, or maybe even a church supper scheduled that night.
And then this man (or woman, God forbid) comes strolling by and says, “Forget what you’re doing—come with me.”
What would have to be true about that person for you to ditch everything and get up, with your co-workers watching and your family and friends waiting at home, and leave with him or her? He didn’t say, “Meet me on Sunday and we’ll go knock on doors and pass out tracts.” He didn’t say, “Come join the Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Catholic, fill-in-the-blanks church.” He didn’t say, “Come with me and we’ll feed the masses,” although they did it once or twice when the situation demanded it. And he most assuredly didn’t say, “Come with me or God’s gonna strike you down like a dog with a tsunami or a tornado or a flood or a nuclear accident.” He didn’t perform miracles for them to get them to come with him—that came later, and started because his mother told him to. He didn’t show them his bag of denarii, He didn’t even sport the newest travelling robe and walking sandals. He just said strange things like, “Come and I’ll make you fishers of men.”
And the strangest thing is that they did!
Though we’ll never really know, I have an idea about why they dropped it all to follow him. He talked about it often enough, but he didn’t just talk about it—he lived it. Every single day of that 1,000 days and every day since. “Love God, love your neighbors, love one another as I have loved you.”
Sure, that means the people in Africa and Equador. Yes, it means the people in the unemployment lines and the homeless shelter. But that’s not all it means.
It means the person who sits across the aisle (or with you) at services, your son or daughter, husband or wife. It means the woman at the drycleaners, the guy who’s late to work and in danger of losing his job and accidentally cuts you off on the freeway, the person on the other side of your cubicle, the person in the warehouse. Me.
Treat me kindly, in a way that tells me I’m special. Out of the blue send me an email telling me you’re thinking about me. Let me know that you know I’m doing the best that I can. Don’t judge me—don’t talk disparagingly about me behind my back or certainly not in front of me. Don’t assume that I talk about you and try and exact revenge. Talk to me when nobody else will. Listen to my jokes and laugh. Listen to my sorrows and cry with me. Expect the same from me, not the perversion of what you’ve come to expect.
Delight in me and everyone you meet, knowing we are all your brothers and sisters, all children of the Most High God.
Do that and I’ll follow you anywhere.
One person 2000 years ago thousands of miles away from here, and today billions still remember his name.
That’s what one person can do.