The strange thing about silhouettes is that you can see what is going on, but you cannot see the detail. Especially when it is hazy too. Almost surreal, like a scene out of a movie. The sun was almost down. The air thick with smoke from fires made in rusted old rubbish barrels. People warming themselves around the fires, talking. A few taxis were parked haphazardly, waiting for customers.

I noticed him only because he started walking. Well, couldn’t call it ‘walking’. Let’s just say he was moving. Pushing a plastic crate in front of him, using it as an aid to stay upright. Really awkward. This made him walk bent over, because the crate was not higher than his knees. “Drunk”, I thought.

The sun had set now and it was dark. The only light came from smouldering fires, and street lamps a distance away. The man moved again, very slowly. I don't know what made me pay more attention, but I started to watch him with more interest.

Silhouettes can be deceptive, for as he neared me, I could see him clearly — he was not drunk, he was hurt! The way he was holding onto the crate, while pushing his leg forward, was a clear indication that he had a physical problem with either his leg or his hip. That man was injured, and he was using the crate as a crutch!

My casual interest changed into concern, and then into compassion. Felt so embarrassed for judging him earlier. Started pleading God, “Lord, please heal that man”, and “Lord, look at him, it is so pathetic”, and then “Do something, Lord!”

You are there, you do something”, I heard the Lord whispering.

What?

I was dumbstruck! The logic behind it was so real, I couldn’t doubt it. Then came the excuses: It is dangerous out there. It is too dark. I am not strong enough.

“Lord, please do something!”

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me”(Matt 25:35-36, NIV).

The irony hit me like a ton of bricks — I like to pray “Lord, use me”, “Jesus, I am Your servant”, “Lord, make me more like You”. So, He gives me the opportunity to be used, to be His hands .... and then I fervently pray and ask Him to do something! Loving obedience to Jesus’ commands actually means that I should get my hands dirty too, not just my knees.

A wise man once said that God left poor and suffering people amongst us, so that we can practice mercy. Oh, I need to practice a lot more!

Reflection

When James said, As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead (James 2:26), he never meant that works are required for salvation. But he is very clear that true saving faith cannot be separated from the evidence of good works.

How can you practice mercy today?