When you look at a crowd of people what do you see? A potential threat to withdraw from? A time-consuming multitude to avoid? A faceless mass to feel indifferent to? Not Jesus.
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36)
My pastor Tope Koleoso loves to watch crowds of people. I think he sees the crowd as a group of individuals. All of whom need Jesus. If you allow yourself to see the crowds in a similar way it can feel overwhelming. It is also humbling, since no matter how large your ministry, no one individual can reach all of them.
If you live in a city especially, the temptation is to simply withdraw from the crowds into your safe little bubble. How many of us never meet anyone new? How many of us never really sit and visit with someone? How many of us go out of our way to visit with someone in need. How many of us don’t realise we could be the answer to someone else’s loneliness. At the very same time, they could be the answer to ours.
You don’t have to cross oceans and visit Africa to understand that there are millions of lonely people in this world, but perhaps it helps. Scott Hubbard of Desiring God takes up this point:
No one ever visits. A world of activity rushed past the orphanage every day — shop owners, teachers, farmers, businessmen — but no one ever visited these children on the other side of the wall. Left behind at birth, they were still being left behind by neighbors too busy to notice.
Since returning home, I’ve wondered about people around me who might echo the words we heard at the orphanage. What neighbors, what church members, what relatives are watching hordes of people pass by while they quietly ache for a visitor?
Westerners may not walk past many orphanages, but we constantly walk past people who feel forgotten, neglected, and desperately lonely: the depressed, the disabled, the socially awkward, the grieving, the elderly. Though often surrounded by people, many of the most hurting rarely receive a visitor. They rarely find someone who will not merely brush by with a smile, but will stop, sit, and linger for a while. Someone who will climb down into the miry bog of their complex problems and place a tender hand on their shoulder.
When was the last time you strayed from your circle of family and friends, set aside the to-do list, and simply visited with someone needy? READ MORE
We like to divide the world into ‘needy’ people and ‘not needy’ people. The truth is there is no such separation. Many millions are living lives of quiet desperation. Struggling with issues they have no one to discuss with. Facing their problems totally alone.
Social media is intended to forge connections, but so often compounds the issue of soul-sapping isolation.
It really is not good for a man or a woman to be alone. (Genesis 2:18)
And in fact, there is no such thing as a person who is not needy.
If you think you are the exception, perhaps a sudden piece of news will change everything for you as it did for me. A moment in time can turn a doctor into a patient, a helper into one needing help, a teacher into one needing teaching. Don’t wait to your own emergency to recognise your need for others.
Who will you reach out to this weekend and spend some time with? Who will you connect with? Who will you offer help and support to? And the secret is that as Jesus said it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). If you will reach out to bless, you will find that you are actually the one being blessed far more than the one you reach out to.