written by Olivia Chen
Each day, we come in contact with so many people. At school or in the workplace, we see fellow students, professors, or coworkers. With the mundane tasks of life—grocery shopping, grabbing your morning coffee, eating in the dining halls—we encounter check-out clerks, baristas, and food servers. Most of the people we encounter end up passing in and out of our lives without more than a single “hello” or an awkward moment of eye contact.
Does this matter? It does! It matters because each person in this world is an individual in need of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Carl Hargrove pointed out to us recently, those without Christ are “walking dead.” They are “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked, following the course of this world” (Ephesians 2:1-2). They need the life that only comes from faith in Christ. And how will people come to faith? Romans 10:14 states, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” As Christians, we are called to share the gospel, and it is good for us to seek out opportunities to proclaim it.
Some of you might have some non-Christian friends that you have intentional relationships with—that’s great—please continue pouring into those. However, in my experience, I’ve found that my circle of non-Christian friends has grown smaller and smaller each year (and this happens even more so as you enter the working world)*. In light of that, I have found it helpful to look for opportunities among the “strangers” in my life.
There are many people we tend to neglect—perhaps it’s not intentional, but it happens. This could include random classmates, people sitting alone at church, workers at your local grocery store, or those guys that make your daily cup of coffee. In our day-to-day lives, we often ignore people we’re unfamiliar with because it’s more comfortable that way. A big part of that likely stems from forgetting that these are people in dire need of the gospel. In Philippians 2, Paul writes that “in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation…[we] shine as lights in the world.” Each day, we have countless opportunities to display Christ by being different from the world through showing kindness toward the multitude of people we come across.
A lot of nonbelievers I’ve met say that they don’t need God to tell them to “do good”; they want to “do good” to others and be nice just because it’s the “right thing” to do. As believers though, we have a different reason. Our Father has shown us the ultimate kindness by graciously saving us from our sin through the sacrifice of His own Son. And this salvation isn’t something we can ever earn or deserve, but it is a free and perfect gift. 1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” As recipients of God’s great love, we have the greatest motivation to reflect His love and grace by interacting with others in a way that exemplifies Him. Ultimately, we want to be kind and do good works so that people may see those good works and “give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
So what can this look like in practice? Although I still fall short in extending kindness, here are some examples from my life:
- God has allowed me to get to know the workers at a coffee shop I frequent. Over a year or so, I cultivated relationships with them by consistently showing that I cared about them (remembering names, asking about their lives).
- When I go grocery shopping, I make a point to regularly go to one store and get to know some of the people who work there. Usually, I plan my trips to be sure that I will get to talk to the people I’ve met and ask about how they are doing.
Through these avenues that the Lord has blessed me with, I’ve had opportunities to share the gospel, give my testimony, talk about church, and pray with these people. I trust that the Lord is working in the hearts of the people I’ve met and am grateful to play a role in His plan.
As students at UCLA, it is a blessing that we have such a tangible reminder of one of Jesus’ exhortation to believers. As you know, our dorms are located on the Hill. In Matthew 5:14 Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” Having the ever-present Hill should remind us that Jesus calls us to be lights to this fallen world and to point the world to Him, because true life and joy is found in Christ alone. Showing unwarranted kindness (one of the fruits of the Spirit) to strangers is a beautiful way to demonstrate Christ’s love and lead people to come to know Him.
Julian, a Roman ruler and hater of Christians wrote: “As children are coaxed with cake, so have these Christians enticed the poor to join them by kindness. Strangers they have secured by hospitality. By affecting brotherly love…they have won the multitude.” Kindness is a powerful testimony of how God changes lives in Christ! Beginning to show radical kindness to the strangers in our lives will likely require some sacrifice of time, effort, and comfortableness, but isn’t it worth it for the sake of salvation? Though this will look different in each of our lives, I challenge you to be on the lookout for opportunities to be kind. Each one of us has been divinely placed in our respective situations for a reason—at UCLA, in specific classes, in a certain apartment complex, with certain hobbies. Think of ways that you can shine brightly for Christ where you’ve been placed. Let your kindness open the doors for evangelism!
* That’s not a bad thing, because the Bible calls us to be often in the church and among God’s people: “not neglecting to meet together…encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:25).