The kindness of strangers
My wife and I were driving in Wisconsin on a slippery road when our car skidded and we found ourselves in the ditch. Just then a car appeared and stopped and four healthy young men got out and pushed our car out of the ditch in just a few minutes. They left as fast as they came and I had to shout “Thank you!” It was just the opposite of Matthew 25:35, “I was a stranger and you invited me in.” We were strangers and, without any invitation, tey helped us out!
In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus teaches us a number of important truths, but two of them stand out. First, He tells us that anybody who needs our help is our neighbor, even if a starnger; and second, He reminds us that strangers have helped us on the road of life and we don’t even know them. Perhaps one day we will meet them. Meanwhile, it isn’t necessary to do an identity search before we lend a helping hand, and God forbid that we inquire whether or not the person deserves help! “Justice seeks out the merit of the case, but pity only regards the need.” Bernard of Clairvaux said that, and he was right.
The kindness of strangers and our kindness to strangers go together. God reminded the people of Israel that the patriarchs were strangers in Canaan, the Israelites were strangers for centuries in Egypt and for forty years in the wilderness, and therefore they should be kind to the strangers in their land. “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt” (Ex. 22:21; see also 23:9). Leviticus 19:33-34 is even more specific. “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him.” The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” Boaz the wealthy Bethlehemite took this literally and fell in love with Ruth the Moabitess when he saw her gleaning in his field, and Ruth became his wife and the ancestress of David the king.
People who know little or nothing about the Lord can show kindness to God’s people. The Roman centurion was especially kind to Paul in the voyage to Italy (Acts 27:3), and the natives of Malta were very kind to the shipwrecked passangers (Acts 28:2).
When D. L. Moody founded the Illinois Street Church in Chicago, he put a sign in a prominent place that read, “Always Welcome to this House of God are Strangers and the Poor.” When the present Moody Memorial Church erected at Clark and LaSalle Streets, the motto was displayed on two brass plaques at the main entrance. Over the years, the many “strangers and poor” have come in to worship, and some of them have trusted Christ and gone out to serve Him.
Kindness rejected or forgotten
David’s kindness toward Mephibosheth is a heartening story, but not so his attempted kindness toward Hanun, king of the Ammonites (2 Sam. 10). Nahash, Hanun’s father and David’s friend, had died and David sent an official delegation to express his sympathy. (This is not the Nahash of 1 Samuel 11 but his son.) Hanun,s counselors were skeptical of this delegation and convinced the new king that the Hebrews were spies and not mourners. Instead of welcoming the men, they insulted and embarrassed them by shaving off half of each man’s beard and cutting off their outer garment. David gave the men refuge at Jericho where they got new garments and remained long enough for their beards to grow. But the result was a costly war which the Ammonites lost and made them subjects of Israel.
“Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father,” admonishes Proverbs 27:10, a pice of counsel the new king ignored to his hurt. When our children were small, we introduced them to friends when we had opportunity, and some of our friends are now their friends.
To forget the kindness of a friend is a tragedy. King Joash began his reign obeying the Lord and the counsel of the high priest Jehoiada, but Joash turned away from the Lord after Jehoiada died and began to worship idols (2 Chron. 24). Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son and a prophet, rebuked the king, and the king had him slain while he was ministering in the temple. “King Joash did not remember the kindness Zecharaiah’s father Jehoiada had shown him but killed his son…” (2 Chron. 24:21-22).
Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer forgot Joseph and his kindness (Gen. 40:23), and the Israelites forgot what Gideon had done for them (Judges 8:32-35). The leaders of Israel forgot Jeremiah’s faithful ministry and wanted to kill him (Jer. 18:18-23), the churches in Asia forgot Paul’s ministry to them and forsook him (2 Tim. 1:15). “They repay me evil for good and leave my soul forlorn” (Ps. 35:12). After all that Jesus did for Israel during His three years of ministry, the people who listened to their leaders asked for Him to be crucified.
Kindness is one of the keys that will open the door of God’s blessing. It will also give us opportunities for witness.
John Wesley may have had this in mind when he wrote: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”
In short, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.”
(Copyright Warren W. Wiersbe 2008. All rights reserved.)
Dr. Warren Wiersbe (1929-2019) was an internationally known Bible teacher, author, and conference speaker. He graduated in 1953 from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Lombard, Illinois. While attending seminary, he was ordained as pastor of Central Baptist Church in 1951 and served until 1957. From September 1957 to 1961, Wiersbe served as Director of The Literature Division for Youth for Christ International. From 1961 to 1971 he pastored Calvary Baptist Church of Covington, Kentucky south of Cincinnati, Ohio. His sermons were broadcast as the “Calvary Hour” on a local Cincinnati radio station. From 1971 to 1978, He served as the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago 1971 to 1978. While at Moody Church he continued in radio ministry. Between August 1979 and March 1982, he wrote bi-weekly for Christianity Today as “Eutychus X”, taught practical theology classes at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and wrote the course material and taught a Doctor of Ministry course at Trinity and Dallas Seminary. In 1980 he transitioned to Back to the Bible radio broadcasting network where he worked until 1990. Dr. Wiersbe became Writer in Residence at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids and Distinguished Professor of Preaching at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. In his lifetime, Dr. Wiersbe wrote over 170 books—including the popular Be series, which has sold over four million copies. Dr. Wiersbe was awarded the Gold Medallion Lifetime Achievement by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA).