If Jesus Could Have Used Email
The following true story shows how we can make a difference as internet evangelists, taking the love of Jesus to others through the modern-day technology of email. You’ve probably received lots of emails telling you about somebody’s need for prayer. They often describe some tragedy or disease or other suffering, and they ask you to pray and to pass the prayer request around to everyone on your email list for more prayers. Is this what Jesus would have done if he’d been able to use email when he walked the earth?
My answer might surprise you: NO!
The story below is more likely the way Jesus would have used email. Interestingly, the people in the story were not contacted by email because they were on a list of Christians. They were all on an address list of dog-lovers! Can we learn from their example and become as much like Jesus as they are?
This story was first reported by Jacquelyn Lynn of The Orlando Sentinel in an article entitled A Different Kind of Internet Love Story. Jacquelyn Lynn, a freelance writer, and Mary Kinney, who started the email request for help, were members of Winter Park Presbyterian Church in Florida. Also instrumental in this story were members of First Presbyterian Church and St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, both in Billings, Montana.
On May 27, 1998, Mary Kinney’s daughter, Debi, and son-in-law, Jason, were in a serious car accident in Montana. They had been driving home to Seattle after visiting family in Florida. Jason did not survive, and Debi suffered serious brain injuries and was in intensive care. Mary sent a short email to a friend in Winter Park, asking for prayers before leaving for the hospital in Billings.
The friend forwarded the message to everyone she knew who also knew Mary. Emails zipped through the Internet superhighway to places throughout the world. Many people offered up prayers.
When Jacquelyn Lynn received the email, she wondered if there was anything she could do in addition to praying. Living in Florida, far across the country from the hospital where Mary anguished over her daughter’s tragic condition, there seemed to be nothing else to do.
Jacquelyn thought about contacting more people through the Internet. A dog lover, she was on Internet mailing lists for two different breeds. What if she posted a notice on these lists? She decided to try. In the notice, she described what had happened to Debi and suggested that those who lived near Billings might do something — maybe stop by the hospital, maybe take lunch to Mary, maybe invite her home for a meal and the use of a washing machine.
Many dog lovers on the mailing lists responded. Those who lived near Billings went to the hospital. One woman drove 45 miles just to give Mary a hug! Another was very busy packing up her household to move, but she took time out daily to visit Mary and Debi. A Florida resident called a cousin who lives in Billings, and he brought a meal and flowers to the hospital. Others who lived too far away to visit sent donations, cards and gifts.
On June 13, Debi was flown by air ambulance to Orlando to be near her mother as she underwent physical therapy and rehabilitation. After that, email was used to give daily up-dates on Debi’s progress to all of Mary’s friends, some of whom she met because of the tragedy. Debi’s recovery would be a lengthy process, but she and her family did not have to go through it alone.
This story brings to mind Matthew 25:31-46 (NIV):
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For 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.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
How many of the dog lovers were actually church-going Christians? Only God knows, but certainly not all of those who reached out to Mary and Debi with caring. And how many of us Christians have received emails about people in need, and all we have done is pray for them? Jesus is saying to us: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
There’s more to the story! Thanks to this email connection of caring, those who did serve Jesus by serving Debi and Mary, also received a benefit.
As Jacquelyn said, “Connected in cyberspace through their common concern for a young woman many of them have never even met, members of this caring group have forged and strengthened their own mutual bonds. And without thought for recognition or reward, they’ve clearly demonstrated how the innate goodness of the human race can be enhanced by technology.”
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© 2001 by Terry A. Modica