There are two groups of people our compassion and spirituality ends up being measured by – complete strangers and specific groups of friends and #family!
Let’s see how this works.
If we examine carefully the New Testament‚ it will become obvious to us that Jesus had different types of relationships with different people.
He had a special dynamic going on with three of his apostles‚ who ended up being the only ones he brought with him to the Mount of Transfiguration. (Mark 9:2-1 3)
He had the twelve‚ whom he handpicked based on direct guidance by Father God. One of them didn’t turn out quite right‚ but the rest made it‚ even after they denied their Master and Rabbi. Repentance is a powerful gift! (Luke 6:1 2)
And then‚ there were also the seventy‚ who were empowered by Jesus to cast out demons! Make no mistake – Jesus knew these folks first hand. He personally empowered them to go out and cast demons in His name! They had the time of their lives! But think about it – we don’t really know anything else about this group. And yet‚ Jesus knew them quite well – even to a point of empowering them to cast demons out in His name! That’s a big deal! (Luke 10:17)
In the Upper Room‚ we see some one hundred and twenty in addition to the twelve gathered and being solidly attached to the 11 remaining apostles‚ who became 1 2 again later on. Finally‚ order and a sense of completeness! But who were these 120 people? We don’t know. Yet the apostles knew. Jesus knew. They weren’t just ‘anybody’ off the street. (Acts 1:15)
And finally‚ in 1 Cor. 15:6 we see a whopping five hundred being mentioned by the apostle Paul. Yes‚ five hundred people chosen and very blessed Hebrews who witnessed the risen Lord! Not sure how these folks qualified‚ but I’m totally happy for them! I mean it! But think about again – Jesus chose to show himself alive and risen from the dead to a body of five hundred individuals we know nothing about. And yet‚ it’s pretty clear Jesus knew enough about them and they ranked high enough on his priority list‚ even to the point of being worth an encounter of this magnitude! Yet to us‚ they will remain the nameless and faceless 500! Until The Day we’ll cross over into glory‚ that is.
We know all these people needed Jesus. Who doesn’t?
But why did Jesus need all these different groups?
Why don’t we know the names of most of these people?
What made them so special? How did they qualify? Most people in their minds think of Jesus walking around Israel‚ followed by his special twelve apostles – kind of like a hippie group.
That’s not the picture we’re getting from Scripture. Jesus had much more complex social #life. He obviously imparted his life into many more than the twelve. He cared about much more than the twelve. He knew more than the twelve. He cares enough‚ even to the point of bringing them all together and appearing to them after his resurrection. It touches my heart to know He was a compassionate Man even when he was already a powerfully manifest God. That he gathered these people‚ who were special to him in ways we don’t understand‚ for one last ‘good bye’. A true Comforter who left us another Comforter‚ the Holy Spirit‚ to keep us close to Him even while we’re still apart.
Historians tell us that Jerusalem at the time of Jesus had a population of around 100‚000 people.
To sum it up again‚ apart from the masses who got to witness His miracles and hear him teach‚ a handful were chosen to participate from a close range in the unfolding events of His rise as a Rabbi‚ Miracle Man‚ Messiah and ultimately‚ a Risen Savior‚ King and Lord!
Could there be a pattern in all this? Could it be that we all might need five such groups of people in our lives?
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi and Jennifer Frangos write in their groundbreaking book “Linked: The Science of Networks” that‚ based on research‚ the number of people a person gets to know on a first-name basis and interacts with throughout their lifetime‚ is around 600. Hmm‚ that’s pretty close to 500.
And then‚ there is Dunbar’s number. A British scientist‚ who somehow calculated that we can maintain around 150 quality relationships at most‚ at any given time. That’s not that far from 120.
And what about the 70?
Did you know that over 85% of churches are made up of less than 100 people? And half of these are groups of 50 or less!
So there’s something to be said about the 50 to 70 to 100 dynamic. Call it your “extended community” if you will‚ but there’s something about a group of this size that has proven its resilience over time.
And finally‚ there are the 1 2. The people you call when it’s time to celebrate and grieve. The people who can come over to your house and give you a hug and it won’t feel weird. Yeah‚ we all need people like that.
And what about the special the three?
John‚ Peter and James had a special thing going on. We’re not sure how and why but these three apostles had a place in Jesus life that was very close to him. The inner circle of friends is crucial to our lives. It could be that no more than 3 people might be what we might call close friends. This closest circle of friends demands the most of our inner vulnerability and investment of time and effort. It will be well worth it.
It might be that Jesus modeled something for us.
His public life was one thing‚ but then there were all these different circles of people He chose to interact with in a special way. He didn’t lump people together. He didn’t treat all people like “the masses”. Jesus believed in people. His whole life was integrated with people. He distinguished one person from another and understood group dynamics‚ even to the point of interacting with different groups in different ways.
As we go through life‚ could it be that our lives will also end up being lived mostly with and before our own 3‚ 1 2‚ 70‚ 120 and 500? If so‚ who are they in your life? Have your thought about it? Isn’t this what people call “#society“? Aren’t these the people to whom you and I end up either representing Christ or not?
When Jesus taught us to love our fellow man‚ He taught us this valuable lesson through the parable of the Good Samaritan‚ which had one very simple thing to tell us: our “neighbour” is really anyone who is in need and we happen to run into. And it’s because we believe the Lord guides us in all things‚ we also believe that when we “run into someone in need”‚ this is probably an opportunity for us to demonstrate our Heavenly Father’s love and care.
Oh‚ and did I mention He watches over us not only to bless us and take care of us‚ but also to guide us as His hands and feet on the earth? How else do you think this whole “Body of Christ” thing works in reality?
This is how the heart of God is for mankind. This is how we ought to be as well.
I can give you a number of examples from my own life when I ran into someone in need and had to stop‚ realize this is an opportunity from the Lord to be who I say I am to this person and actually do it. One time a homeless kids ended up staying overnight at my apartment because I ran into him and he didn’t have a place to stay for the night. At another time I hosted for weeks someone I knew who ended up homeless and needed a warm place to stay in the winter. And then‚ there was the motorist who was stranded on the roadside in the middle of a heavy snowstorm with everyone passing him by – yet I chose to stop and help him make a call to a local towing business. In addition‚ I can tell you so many stories I have heard from friends of mine who have chosen time and again to be the feet and hands of Jesus to someone in need that just ran into.
It’s a nasty‚ dark and very broken world we live in. Sometimes helping people is a dangerous risk. You have to be very careful when do these kind of things. But we can’t‚ let me emphasize this – we cannot chose not to be Jesus’ hand and feet in such ‘Good Samaritan’ situations and claim we are His Body and we represent him to a dying and broken world.
We can also say that this kind of compassion is on the far end of the compassion spectrum. That is‚ if we have God’s heart of compassion for a complete stranger‚ that’s a type of an indicator that we can love the hardest ones to love – people we don’t even know. Yet we end up loving and caring about them solely based on the fact they are made by God and are his children He cares about.
This attitude and deep-seated conviction is at the very heart of our Christian #civilization and society. It’s the basis for the Christian way of running hospitals‚ humanitarian organizations‚ addiction therapy programs‚ Red Cross type of organization‚ disaster relief – much of what the US military does these days and now moving into areas like education and nation building. This is what churches have been known for traditionally.
But what about those closer and those closest to us? Our family‚ friends‚ relatives‚ coworkers?
The apostle Paul said:
“Anyone who does not provide for their relatives‚ and especially for their own household‚ has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” 1 Tim. 5:8
Because the truth is‚ our Christian civilization is falling part exactly because the traditional family is falling apart.
How is it that we’re so good at creating and running all kinds of humanitarian organization‚ yet we are failing so spectacularly at home?
Because the reality is that most of our lives will be spent interacting not with strangers who are in need and we stumbled into. Most of our lives will be spent interacting with family‚ friends‚ co-workers and other acquaintances – our fellow man‚ our neighbour.
Amongst those closest to you are people God puts in your life who will know:
- who you really are (not all people do)
- what your mission in life is (and hopefully will be supportive of it)
- how well you are doing (and hopefully will encourage you if you aren’t)
- when you have achieved your goals (and will hopefully celebrate with you!)
Those are also the people who will witness your failures and struggles. Hopefully‚ they will also be the people who will also help you get back on your feet and get back into the race you’ve been called to complete.
Discover who they are. Discover who you are in other people’s lives.
Your neighbor‚ your friends‚ our Christian civilization – this ends up being your world‚ too. We are called to bring the Lord’s love‚ presence‚ wisdom and power to it and make it better. Are we not?