After so many hours of terrible waiting and pain in the darkness and rubble, the little girl was pulled alive from the wreck of her Italian home. Saving her gave the rescue workers hope that others still needed them, and so they went on digging and listening, searching for other survivors. In the convent, the sisters were injured and bleeding. Only two of them had survived, scared and trapped and unsure if anyone was around to hear their cries for help. They were afraid. Using her cellphone, one of the sisters sent goodbye messages to her family, believing she was about to die. But she didn’t die. A worker from their convent rescued them.
In Louisiana, neighbors with boats went around saving neighbors without boats in the recent floods. They pulled them through windows and off of roofs and lifted them out of the dark water. They took their dogs and cats along, too. They wrapped them in blankets and gave them coffee and sandwiches. It wasn’t their job to rescue people, but they did it anyway. Because that’s what neighbors do for one another.
The firefighters have been battling in the hills and canyons for months now. The heat and drought and winds make it hard to get ahead of the flames. So many fires in so many places. This part of California, with all its homes and ranches and horse farms is a tinder keg of desert scrub. In the 120 degree heat, the firefighters cut brush, build fire breaks and help people and animals evacuate. They’re nearly always in danger themselves and they’ll work until the last fire is out and the ashes are cold.
Every day across the world people are reaching out to help one another. Some in big ways—like in an earthquake or a flood or a wildfire. But many, many more are in a million other small ways that never make the headlines. And it’s in those million small connections that love and mercy live. That’s where and how the Kingdom of God is built. J.R.R. Tolkien and I agree on that. He writes that where some folks believe “only great power can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found that it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folks that keeps the darkness at bay.” Oh, yes, Mr. Tolkien, once again, you’ve got things right.
Because for every headline rescue, there are a million of those “small acts” of kindness and love. And they save lives, and spirits, too. They give hope and joy to countless people every day, all over the world. And I believe it is in these person-to-person non-headline kindnesses that the mercy of God is most fully revealed in our world. And every day, each one of us is called to participate. Called by the King of Kings, no less. This is how we share in the Hope of Christ.
I know the world looks like a mess. On the face of things, it seems broken beyond repair. So it can be easy to hide behind all sorts of masks and excuses and we can choose to stay on the sidelines. But not if we follow Christ. Being a Christian means jumping in with both feet and engaging the chaos and darkness of the world. And our armor is the armor of God (Ephesians 6:11). It’s not by taking a pass, but by meeting life head-on, in the trenches, and reflecting the light of Christ to others. You might not see your name in the headlines, but you’ll be building the Kingdom of Heaven—person to person, moment to moment, heart to heart. Choose hope!
“Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”