Matthew 25:43 “I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.”
Have you ever had a chance encounter with a stranger that turned into a moment that changed your life for the better? From my experience, these moments aren’t chance encounters but are reflective of the providence of God. We witness encounters in the Bible that defined a person or brought condemnation based off how they responded. Looking into these encounters can give insight into how to be prepared when it occurs in our lives.
John Piper describes providence as: “wise and purposeful sovereignty.”
God’s sovereignty on the other hand is: “His right and power to do all that he decides to do.”
The idea that God is in control of our circumstances opens up all kinds of questions.
Why does He allow evil to almost seemingly go unchecked?
Why does He allow bad things to happen to good people?
These are questions that many people have asked through the years and the answers are as complex as our God is vast in His wisdom.
I’ve found that by gaining understanding of God’s nature and then weighing the things I see comparative to His nature, it allows my perspective to change. I begin to look for the evidence of His nature manifest in this world and I see His goodness shining through. The purposes of God begin to make more sense, the closer I draw unto Him.
For instance, one such character of God is His goodness. When we examine the characteristics of a trait that is exclusive to God, we see evidence of His Spirit in this world.
Ephesians 5:8 “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth)”
Since the fruit of the Spirit embodies God’s goodness, we look for these traits manifest in someones life. Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”
Why is it important to be able to see God’s character in this world?
God’s attributes is the measuring line by which we examine ourselves and is how we see whether His Spirit is manifest in others. If I want to encourage my brother in how he lives, I look for these attributes in his life and then encourage him along this line. If I’m searching for a spouse, a good friend, or if I’m concerned someone is backsliding, this is the measuring rod I use. We are told to not be unequally yoked with another person, this might be in marriage or in friendship. If I want to know if they are congruent with God’s nature, I look for God’s works in their life. What is important to them, what value do they place on righteousness or holiness. If you use this standard, you are being wise.
When it comes to showing love to others, it is this standard we are suppose to exhibit.
Jesus identifies with others.
His heart is for the broken, downcast, poor, widower, lonely, hurting, or the multitude of other people this world has crushed and left hopeless, Jesus sees them all. He has known them from their inception, He has witnessed the abuse, the bad decisions, the ways they have attempted to press on but to no avail, and He calls us to be His hands and His feet.
Jesus leads the lost to us.
Someone’s life may intersect your life for just a moment and then you have a choice in what that moment will look like. Jesus told a parable of what it looks like when someone loves unconditionally.
Luke 10:30-37 “Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he discerned him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and discerned, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he spiritually discerned him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”
And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
I underlined what the original greek intent was for this story as illustrated in the http://www.thepureword.com/. The first two people to pass by the injured man recognized him from a worldly perspective. Knowing the effort it would take, the Levite and the priest passed by and ignored his cries and brought condemnation down on their heads. The very standard they claimed to possess became the standard of their judgement. The Samaritan, despised by the jews at that time, was willing to go the extra mile to show love to this stranger in need.
The men who supposedly espoused the attributes of God lacked the spiritual discernment necessary to see what was required of them. People who are called by God’s own name administer justice, and as they do, so honor the King.
Hebrews 13:2 “Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels.”
You just never know who you are going to have opportunity to bless. Whether it is an angel sent by the Lord or a man broken and needing care, we have such a short time on earth to love the Lord with our lives.
If you live by the Spirit, you will be able to see, you will have spiritual discernment like the Samaritan. These strangers in our lives will become expectations of another opportunity to love. The Lord gives you opportunity by the measure of your faithfulness, because you have shown yourself faithful in small things, greater responsibility is given.
What will you do with the opportunities you have? These can become your greatest regrets or your most improbable victories.