Thursday, 12 March 2015

40 Acts - Strangers or unmet friends?

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me." Matthew 25: 35 (ESV)
Do you talk to strangers? Often? Sometimes? Never?
From childhood, we are warned about the risks of meeting strangers which could vary from potential danger, exploitation or unsuitability to simply annoyance and inconvenience. We also worry that we will annoy others and encroach on their personal space. It can feel much easier just to relax and talk to people you already know and who are ’safe’ and similar and don’t present risk. In churches it is particularly easy to stick with those we feel comfortable with.
I run an online dating website, Christian Connection, where we actively encourage people to contact strangers online or at social events. Sometimes people join our site and are then are too cautious to talk to people or respond to messages. They hope it will just ‘happen’.
There is nothing more wonderful than hearing stories of how people took the plunge, contacted others, and have found special and lasting relationships. And even if they don’t find the special ‘one’, they find friendships. Ultimately, in whatever situation, we need to reach out to people, even when we feel nervous.
Jesus constantly encountered new people and was open to those who needed him and even those who attacked him – he was out there. He did suggest being as ’wise as serpents and innocent as doves’ but he and his disciples stretching down through history reached out to people all over the world.
I go to a small church service where there are many good and lasting friendships. One of my friends there, Shirley, is always the first to go up to the visitors and welcome them immediately, and they warm to her. Probably she is the person they most remember and the reason why they might come back.
Reaching out to somebody might change their life – and it might even change yours.
Jackie  Elton

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