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Dane Skelton is the Pastor of Faith Community Church and the author of Jungle Flight: Spiritual Adventures at the Ends of the Earth, a book of true stories from the ministry of JAARS (formerly Jungle Aviation and Radio Service). His second book, Papua Pilot: Flying the Bible to the Last Lost Peoples, co-authored with the late Paul Westlund, is now available on Amazon.com and Christianbook.com.
“He who oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.” (Proverbs 14:31 NIV. Emphasis mine).
What is God more interested in, your soul or your body? Or consider it this way: What is God more interested in, your past, your present, or your eternity?
For an answer, consider the stories of Peter, Aneas and Dorcas.
Acts 9:32-42 tells us that Peter was on an itinerate mission. He visited a town called Lydda.
Lydda, where Aneas lived, was a little over 20 miles from Jerusalem. It would take Peter all day to walk there. Most folks assume that since Peter was on his way to visit the Christians that Aneas was a believer. But the text doesn’t say one way or the other. He was just a man who had been crippled for eight years. For all we know, Peter didn’t know these folks, had never been to Lydda before.
Peter met the crippled man and performed a random act of kindness, saying, “Aneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Peter had the gift of an apostle, the ability to perform miracles. He used what he had to do what he could. That is a simple principle of kindness. Use what you have to do what you can.
While he was in Lydda, Peter heard about Dorcas, from Joppa. Dorcas was not like Aneas. As far as we know Aneas was a beggar. Dorcas was a servant of the poor. She used what she had to do what she could and thus had a ministry to many people in Joppa. But Dorcas had just died.
Now from Lydda to Joppa was a ten mile hike done under a time constraint. Jewish tradition then and now required a body to be buried within 24 hours of death. If Peter was to be of any service to Dorcas and the poor she assisted he would have to drop what he was doing and make an emergency trip, a ten mile hike at a fast clip.
My wife and I can walk 2 miles in 40 minutes. I doubt we could keep that pace up for 4 or 5 hours. Peter had at least a half day of hard walking before him, expecting to find a dead woman and a lot of upset people at the end. Frankly that’s very inconvenient. It’s not fun to hurry into such a situation, all out of breath.
I remember being totally incapacitated, laid up in a Memphis hospital bed many years ago. I was in tremendous pain, demanding and getting all the Demerol they could safely give me. Krista was pregnant with our first child and struggling with morning sickness. She felt really helpless. We didn’t know what was going to happen. It was a great comfort to have two men from my church come and sit with me, pray with me. They were busy responsible men. There were plenty of reasons for them not to come. I couldn’t do a thing for them. They couldn’t help much. Visit and pray was all they could do. But it helped a lot.
For a long time I did not understand the late Pope John Paul’s penchant for travel. I thought, Here this guy is, chief executive of the biggest non-profit ministry in the world, and he’s traveling like mad. It’s expensive, it’s time consuming and it probably doesn’t accomplish much in real terms. Then I realized, the one great thing it does do is this: it lets people who will never be chief executives know that they are just as important as he is. That’s a very biblical thing. Somehow, by his presence, Pope Paul communicated to them a belief in their ‘working out of their own salvation’ that gave them tremendous hope. Note: the laity of the Catholic Church in Poland and other places in Eastern Europe had a huge hand in the peaceful demise of communism. Biblical leaders communicate by example the value and importance of every believer. When they do, marvelous things can happen.
This is called the ministry of incarnation, being Christ with others instead of just preaching Christ to others. It is much more demanding, much more time consuming and much more difficult than teaching, administrating, planning or management. It is also much more powerful.
Service, random acts of kindness done to strangers is simply a natural outgrowth of the gospel. It is the message with feet, and hands, and money, and time, not just words. Jesus came and got dirty with people and celebrated with people. He provided wine at a wedding, food for the hungry, comfort to the grieving, healing for the sick, and sight for the blind. He laughed with people and he cried with them. He gave them hope in their hopelessness. His apostles did the same. These things are not somehow divorced from the gospel. They are part of it.
How can we be part of this ministry, these Random Acts of Kindness? That’s one of the things that I like about The Alpha Course. We invite our friends not just to take a course, but to share life with us around the dinner table and in small groups. We laugh, we pray for each other, sometimes we cry. We get involved with each other. In all of it we are demonstrating to our friends that God cares just as much for our present as he does our future, for our bodies as much as he does our souls. That knowledge changes lives.
I hope that you will take this to heart and pray for and invite your friends, acquaintances, and even complete strangers to The Alpha Course this fall. You never know what God will do when you engage in the ministry of RAOK.