Stop and help the other!

Mother Teresa died on 5 September 1997. The date was chosen to observe the International Day of Charity. Actually, it is a scandal that humanity has to be reminded of helping the destitute. Here are some thoughts on compassion and love for the other.

Mother Teresa, the world-famous nun, went to India in 1928 to devote herself to helping the destitute. In 1950 she founded the order of the Missionaries for Charity. For more than 45 years she looked after the poor, the sick, after orphans and the dying and opened several hospices, orphanages, and leper houses in India. In 1979 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitutes a threat to peace”. To this day she is an example showing that you do not have to have a lot to give a lot.

The following story has been passed down about her. A reporter watched her pick up a child suffering from leprosy—badly marked by the disease—and hugged it. The man said that he would not do that even for a thousand dollars, to which she replied: “Neither would I.”

An agenda of good deeds

Also today, there are many poor, lonely, homeless, and sick people—even in the big and wealthy cities of this world, the metropolises of money and greed. And yes, it is the right thing to do and put some money in a beggar’s tin and finally pack away our long-standing ideas that the money is spent on the wrong things anyway. The destitute need people who are willing to stop and help them. It’s as simple as that! And those who deliberately refuse to help others not only violate ethically sound moral standards, but also God’s commandment to love one’s neighbour. Our desire to help others must be much stronger than our inherent fear of reprisals from a majority or the fear that we will be the poorer for it. This should not just remain a good resolution, but be the start of an agenda of good deeds. Do one good deed every day and you will become a better person. Here are just a few suggestions:

  • stroke instead of strike
  • forgive instead of judge
  • understand instead of curse
  • connect instead of tear apart
  • lift up instead of weigh down
  • integrate instead of isolate
  • encourage instead of judge
  • love instead of hate.

Biblical Christian love

Christian love, charity, compassion, altruism… they have all been cut from the same cloth. All these terms centre on unconditional and wholehearted help. A service of love without a bill. This reflects ethical principles, social values, and fundamental Christian convictions that never lose their power.

The biblical story of the good Samaritan is never far from one’s mind when there is talk about loving the neighbour. Its point: the social status of the persons involved and their mutual relationship was completely irrelevant. The neighbour is not someone with the same background or religion, but simply someone close by who needs help. It is not the person that counts, but the deed.

Paul expresses it very impressively: “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13: 8–10).

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Peter Johanning
Social commitment