SOME TIME AGO I had occasion to pay several visits to a house in my community where I became acquainted with a young girl, about 6 years old, and a tentative friendship was formed between us, despite—or perhaps because of—the 50-year difference in our ages.
It was the sort of home that I was not accustomed to entering—but I had business there. My first impression was the general air of dishevelment and the strong odor of marijuana that permeated the atmosphere. Three children, including 6-year-old Jennifer, all rather sketchily clad, tumbled over one another on the unswept floor.
The young parents, totally ignoring the children, were engaged in a spirited verbal battle, liberally laced with colorful epithets.
Not many weeks later this young couple, who, although both married, were not married to each other, decided to “split” and promptly left the area, taking the two smaller children with them, but—her parentage apparently being a matter of some discussion—abandoning the 6-year-old to her own devices.
Subsequently, a compassionate Christian couple in the locality took the child into their home, and she appeared one Sabbath morning in my second-grade Sabbath School room.
Jennifer was clean, attractively dressed, and, I quickly perceived, very frightened by the totally unfamiliar surroundings in which she found herself. The preliminary song service was already under way, so I smiled at her, found her a seat, and sat down beside her. A few minutes into the program a small hand timidly crept into mine, and a voice whispered in my ear, “I’m glad you’re here.”
Not infrequently I have been moved to ask myself: “What are you doing here? Are you serving any genuinely useful purpose?”
Now, as the tiny fingers tightened around mine and I looked into Jennifer’s anxious face, I realized that I was there, at that moment, in that place, specifically to be a bridge over troubled water for one very bewildered little girl.
As Christians—followers of the compassionate Jesus—we too often forget that we are here, in this place, at this time, for that very purpose: to reach out to those who are hurting and desperately need an expression of His love.
The needs to which James addresses himself in the biblical book named after him—for impartiality, a gentleness in communication, humility, a concern for economic justice, and a desire for heavenly wisdom—are all rooted in a concern for those around us.
Such a mutual concern for others, both within and without the church, establishes a path to unity, a sure and simple antidote to the current climate of divisiveness that sets brother against brother and renders ineffectual the presentation of a loving Savior to those who look for Him in us.