Recently I watched a movie called The Four Feathers. Let me tell you the part that had an impact on me, without giving away too much of the plot. The movie is set in 1898 during a time when England occupied the Sudan. Harry, once a reluctant and now disgraced soldier, travels to the Sudan as a civilian and becomes embroiled in the violence of the time. At one point, he finds himself parched and dying in the desert.
His ‘good Samaritan’ is an enormous black man, Abu, who begins to look out for him, even to the point of risking his life. Harry asks his unlikely benefactor: “Why are you helping me?” Abu replies: “Because God put you in my way. I have no choice.”
Who thinks like that?
If you are like me, your natural reaction to something in your way is to move it or go around it. We’re busy and our time is important. But what if the ‘something’ is a ‘someone’, and what if the ‘someone’ requires more assistance than you have the time or the inclination to give?
I think of the Ten Boom family during the German occupation of Holland. Asked to give protection to a group of Jews who would otherwise be deported to a concentration camp the Ten Boom family welcomed the fugitives and put their lives on the line for these guests they didn’t even know. These people were quite literally ‘in the way’.
Another account comes to mind from the September 11, 2001 attack on the United States. As the Twin Towers became towering infernos, a man descending the dark stairwell thick with smoke encountered a woman in a wheel chair — again, quite literally in the way. With increased danger to himself, he carried her to safety.
How do we react when someone needs our help and helping has the potential to mildly put us out or downright inconvenience us? The challenge is to see the privilege in it, to take care of the things ‘God puts in our way’ with a generous, compassionate heart. When we determine to approach life with kind eyes, our sphere of influence can’t help but become a kinder place. It all begins with me and my attitude towards whomever I perceive to be ‘in my way’.
The phone call I’d rather not take — or make; the person with the needs or demands I’d rather not face; the task I’d rather avoid — these are all infused with a sense of wonder when I ask myself how can I respond to this situation that God put in my way?’
Jesus told a story in Matthew 25:31-46, and this was the punch line: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” From his own words, we learn that the opportunity to serve ‘the one in the way’ is the opportunity to serve Jesus himself. There’s the privilege, and the joy.
Allan Walker is a pastor at Qualicum Baptist Church.