There’s a story I love about John the apostle; in his nineties, and unable to walk, his disciples would carry him to church in Ephesus. He was the only one of the twelve disciples left alive and people would press him for wisdom. Every time he answered them simply; ‘Little children,’ he said, ‘love one another.’
Little children, love one another.
Yesterday morning I took a walk to Keleti station, Budapest. If you’ve seen any news in the past week you’ll probably know what’s been happening there. Thousands of people fleeing war in Syria have been camped under the concourse. In recent days the crowd has thinned as the majority have made the journey to Austria but there were still many camped there.
I stood looking down, wondering at the savage disconnect between their reality and ours. I prayed but words kept failing me.
After a few minutes people arrived and started unloading a van, and another arrived soon after. Soon a group of us bypassers were helping to carry crates of water, juice, bags of blankets, baby supplies and such, down to where aid workers were collecting and distributing it.
A well spoken man asked if I had a jacket for him; his voice seemed like it didn’t belong to the subdued, broken, looking frame that it came from. I didn’t, but directed him to where refugees crowded around the back of one of the vans, trying on shoes and looking for clothing they lacked, children in tow.
Can these be the people the tabloid press teach us to fear? Never once did I feel threatened or vulnerable. Even in the bustle it didn’t feel like my bag – complete with passport, iPad and such – was at risk of theft.
Can these be the people the tabloid press teach us to fear? Never once did I feel threatened or vulnerable.
As we finished emptying the vans, a people carrier pulled up on the pavement and emptied a mountain of supplies out. It was the first time I’d found myself helping other English speakers, so I asked them if they were with a charity or religious organisation.
“I’m not here with a charity. My parents saw the news on the television, so they bought all they could and filled the car.”
It was that simple. People saw a need, recognised that they could do something to help, and acted on it. That is the simple thing we can all do in the face of a complicated and daunting problem. Just love people.
So often our response to humanitarian crises is to raise all kinds of political and economic questions, rather than to recognise the moral answers. What I loved about the family that filled their people carrier with water, juice and nappies, is that they demonstrated the greatest way of living life.
There’s a verse in Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth that we often overlook; in our rush to read chapter thirteen’s famous description of love we can sometimes miss the show stopping line at the end of chapter twelve that gives the foundation for what follows.
But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.
1 Corinthians 12:31 (NLT)
A way of life that is best of all. Such a simple statement, but one of massive and resounding consequence. He’s just discussed all kinds of things involving the way people contribute to church – spiritual gifts, ways people serve, roles – and then he says, “but don’t forget the most important thing of all, the thing you can do that is better than anything else”.
There’s a wall of chalked graffiti from both refugees and locals on the steps under the concourse, and on it are the words ‘Love is easy’. I’m not convinced it is, in fact by its very nature it is often hard; it involves sacrifice and choosing to act contrary to our emotions, but you know what love is? Love is the best way, always.