I was awakened a little past 1:00 AM. The first time I heard it, my body awakened before my mind could comprehend. The second time I heard it, I was up out of bed in a flash. I heard a young child screaming, but I was aware that it was not my son. Just to be sure, I rushed across the hall and into his room, but he was fast asleep. Through the open window in his room, I felt a soft, cool breeze, and then I heard the child scream again. I quickly left my son’s room and closed the door before heading downstairs. I opened the front door and stood on my front porch trying to discern from where the cries were coming. It was down the street, and I was pretty sure they were coming from within a house. I stood there wondering what I should do. Should I go and try to find the child, making sure they are not somehow outside? Should I call the police and alert them that there may be a child in distress? It never occurred to me that I should just ignore it.
I could chalk it up to parental response, maternal instinct, etc., but I think my overwhelming desire to help that crying child was more about my faith than anything else. While being awakened by distant cries of a child might have come from recently honed skills with my own son, my refusal to roll over and let it be someone else’s problem is the natural response to the love of Christ for all people. Someone in pain and distress is my problem, because it is our problem. We are connected to one another through God, who created all people and yearns to have us draw closer to our Maker and each other. The Christian cannot pretend that pain does not exist and that suffering is not an atrocity. The disciple cannot stand by and allow it to go unheeded, but is compelled by the love of Christ and the urging of the Holy Spirit to respond. Before I could step off my porch I heard the child stop screaming, as a female adult voice offered words of comfort, and the crying ceased. As I made my way back to bed, I realized that I had been ready and willing to run out of my house in the middle of the night, shoe-less, and without hesitation to help someone else, because God sends us to be vessels of love, care, kindness, and comfort. I think that many Christians feels this compulsion to respond, even as society tells us to mind our own business. Yet we live in a world where terrible things happen with alarming regularity, and they happen to innocent children, too.
How could I ignore the distressed cries of a child when all the horrific possibilities were running through my head? I pray that the people of God refuse to be silenced and stand down. I hope that we will always rush to respond, and think of the social consequences second. The ardent and instantaneous response of love in a disciple of Jesus Christ was intentionally cultivated by God for others, and we should unleash it upon them. This is not about established etiquette boundaries, but doing our part to bring the comfort of God to all people, and actively work to ease the suffering of this world where sin permeates and kindness is mercy. We are loved, and so we love. God responded to our suffering in sin, and so we respond to the sufferings of others. In this, real and tangible change is made, and the Kingdom shines brighter in the midst of the darkness.