Would You Walk 500 Miles? How About One?
“The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intention.” Oscar Wilde was right. Small acts of kindness are not inconsequential. They matter. More than the grandest intention indeed. Much more than we could ever imagine.
Ancient history might be far in the past, but the wonderful gems it contains are as timeless as ever. Take, for example, the brief historical narrative that we find in the last chapter of Acts.
“After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead. Putting in at Syracuse, we stayed there for three days. And from there we made a circuit and arrived at Rhegium. And after one day a south wind sprang up, and on the second day we came to Puteoli. There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days. And so we came to Rome. And the brothers there, when they heard about us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.”
The distance traversed was no small feat. 33 to 43 miles as the crow flies. A day’s journey at best. Maybe two. What prompted them to make such a journey? Although the text doesn’t come out and say the particular reasons why, it’s not difficult to surmise. Love. It’s the precious bond that unites all the children of God. And it most certainly was felt and manifested in this touching scene.
Life without hope is a punishment that will sooner or later drive a man insane. Chesterton wrote that charity usually means one of two things: pardoning an unpardonable act or loving an unlovable person. What about love? To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. And hope means hoping even when everything seems hopeless. An act of love, of kindness, of encouragement, no matter how small, fuels the fires of hope. For the sinner. For the unlovable. The downtrodden. The weary. The anxious.
I’m confident Paul had anxiety. Scripture says as such for we have recorded for us the words of the Lord given to him. “Take courage…” “Do not be afraid…” (Acts 23.11; 27.24). And yet we see through his life a principle that should govern us still. Despise not the labor that humbles the heart. Methinks the sight of brethren traveling so far just to offer what means of encouragement they could was humbling. What did they say? “Fare thee well.” “Be of good cheer.” “Fear not.” Maybe. What exactly was it they did? The text does not say. They simply appeared, after traveling miles and miles. Their love for him was evident. Perhaps it afforded the opportunity for Paul to be refreshed and reminded of the labor that he had been commissioned to do. We know it to be so.
“On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.”
This time the Lord did not appear. But he used people. Brothers and sisters alike to bring the life sustaining words and actions of love and encouragement. And thus Paul was invigorated. He received a shot in the arm from the encouraging brethren who came from afar. And so the book of Acts closes with Paul “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28.31). Boldness in the face of extreme oppression and imprisonment. Stemming from what may seem on the surface to be a small act of kindness.
“Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”
Would you walk 500 miles? How about 500 more? 43? 33? Just one? Those from Three Taverns and the Forum of Appius on the Appian Way did.
Would you have done the same?