A young man from an Indian village stood at the railway platform waiting to board the train. In his arms he carried a small baby wrapped in a torn blanket, while two young children, frightened by the strange surroundings, held onto his shirt. Finally, loud warning horns went off as, at last, the train thundered into the railway station with a deafening noise.
As the train came to a screeching halt, the doors flew open letting a stream of passengers out; while at the same time a huge crowd loaded with bags, baskets, and bundles tried to climb aboard, hoping to grab one of the few seats available. The young father with his three children just managed to get into one of the passenger cars before the conductor blew his whistle and the train began to move. Every seat was taken and people stood tightly packed in the aisles.
As the train moved faster and faster, the beautiful countryside and the faraway mountains rolled by, but the young man didn’t seem to notice. Then suddenly the baby in his arms began to cry. He tried to comfort the child, but in spite of all his efforts, the infant continued to wail.
After a while, many of the passengers began to look at him accusingly. After a solid hour of enduring the infant’s screams, the fellow travelers lost their patience.
“Can’t you keep that baby quiet? You are causing so much disturbance for everyone,” one man said angrily.
“Why isn’t the mother traveling with you?” an older lady wanted to know.
“Yes,” someone else added,” “Why isn’t she here? Did you send her off to work? What’s wrong with you anyway?”
After listening to all the accusations, the young villager sadly responded, “It is true—if his mother were here, the baby wouldn’t cry like this. My children and I have been with her in the hospital for the past month. She died yesterday.”
Suddenly the whole atmosphere in the passenger compartment changed. All the accusers were quiet as shame crept over them.
A woman who occupied a seat asked the man if she could hold the baby for him, and it didn’t take her long to rock the child to sleep. Someone else gave up his seat to let the man and his two other children sit down. Others shared their food with them. The rest of the journey was totally different. Every one of the travelers thought of how he or she could show kindness and compassion to this grief-stricken father and his three children. When the train stopped at the young man’s destination, several passengers got out along with him, interrupting their own journeys to help with the funeral arrangements.
Understanding Others Changes Our Heart Toward Them
In this story, what was it that changed the attitude and emotions of these people towards this villager and the screaming child in his arms? What helped them to not judge him anymore? And what compelled them to help him in ways they never would have thought of at the beginning of their journey?
It was that these passengers saw and heard the real story of the young man. That is what changed their hearts towards him.
We see the same thing happen in the Old Testament in Hannah’s case, when she came to the temple, weeping and pouring her heart out to God because she didn’t have a child (see 1 Samuel 1:9-11). Eli the priest watched her and judged her and accused her of being drunk because of her strange behavior. But when he discovered that her weeping was out of deep pain and grief, his former attitude changed, and he treated her with compassion.
Very often we, as followers of Christ, go on with our own lives and our own agendas, not wanting to be bothered and disturbed with the cries of those who have never heard of the love that Jesus has for them.
But once we come to the discovery of their real situation and we begin to truly understand, not just from an earthly perspective but from an eternal perspective, our hearts towards them will change. We can shake off our self-centered Christianity.
Our new understanding will motivate us to have a different perspective on the use of our time, the things we pray for, and how we spend our resources. Our new attitude and compassion will cause us to count inconveniences as significant opportunities to show the love of Christ to those who have never before heard of Him. In all this, we will find new meaning and purpose for our own lives as well.
While every day 80,000 people of our generation die without ever hearing that Jesus loves them, we live as though nothing is happening. Today in many of our churches, we get together to celebrate our spiritual achievements and pride ourselves with prosperity and great Bible knowledge, while millions die and perish. What more evidence do we need to prove that Christ was right when he told the church is Laodicea, “… and knowest not that thou art wretched and miserable, and poor and blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17).
Shake Off a Self-Centered Christianity
The late Keith Green said it so well in one of his songs, “Asleep in the Light”:
“. . . The world is sleeping in the dark
That the church just can’t fight,
‘Cause it’s asleep in the light…”
Stop, think, and change! Let us shake off a self-centered Christianity. We can, and we must. Let us determine to follow the Christ of the New Testament, who gave His life so that we might live.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon