The book of Acts shares a story of Peter and John’s encounter with a beggar. It reads,” One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So, the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Acts 3:1-6)
Have you ever watched people approach a street beggar? Many will move to the opposite side of the sidewalk or, if they are unable to do so, will either lower their head and look at the ground or fiddle with their phone or something else to suggest they are too busy to notice someone seeking help. Have you ever wondered what the panhandler’s thoughts are when they witness this avoidance tactic? Most homeless people and street beggars are not naive about their situation. Many acknowledge that they contributed to their current situation, and none will ever say their dream was to live on the street and beg for assistance. Regardless of how they got there, their position is demoralizing and humiliating and watching people look away makes them feel like pariahs in their communities.
In the name of Jesus, Peter gave the lame man the ability to walk. He could feel like a member of society, like a human being. He could go home, face his neighbours and participate in his upkeep. Peter and John remind us that the needy are created in the image of God and are deserving of our love and respect. Peter and John stopped, looked at the individual, and talked with him. They were able to bring Jesus to another by merely acknowledging his existence. How do we respond in similar situations? How do we react or interact with someone we know who is struggling with PTSD, anxiety or depression? They often hide themselves as they try to deal with their issue alone, but how do we treat them when they venture into the community? Those who are homeless, use food banks or suffer from invisible illnesses and desire our acknowledgement, not judgment or contempt.
God created us to live in relationship with one another, but many don’t because they can’t get past outer appearances. On our street corners are visible reminders of people in need, but many are blinded to them because they choose to look the other way. Jesus taught us that we must interact with those whom society overlooks or looks down upon. Followers should decide whether they should emulate Jesus’ behaviour or look the other way. Can we offer more than silver and gold to those around us? Can we do something about those needing food and shelter? Can we help those with family troubles, invisible illnesses, or lack of hope? Can we look at and face someone who had been marginalized by society and see their need?
People need Jesus regardless of their status in society. It is easy to look at the misery in the world and ask, “why does God allow this to happen.” However, do you wonder if God asks the question, “why are we letting things happen around us when we can help?” Do you have the desire to face someone in need and say, “look at me,” and listen to them into existence? The reality is that it is difficult and somewhat unnatural to interact with those in need, and that is why we have the Holy Spirit. He encourages and guides us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Start your day by asking God how you can bring some hope to those around you and be prepared to meet and interact with those who need Jesus.