Brandon Stanton is a photographer in New York City. In 2010, he began taking portraits of people he found on the city streets. His photo blog, Humans of New York, shows pictures along with quotes from his subjects.
He recently featured a middle school student from Mott Hall Bridges Academy, located in a Brooklyn community with the highest crime rate in New York City. When asked who has influenced him most in life, the student named his principal and recounted a time when she “made every student stand up, one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”
One way Principal Nadia Lopez is showing the students they matter is by taking the incoming sixth grade class on a tour of Harvard University. Since many of them have never left New York, she wants to show them one of the world’s great universities and teach them that they can belong there. The Humans of New York community has joined together to raise more than $1 million for the cause, funding the trip for at least the next 10 years. Lopez says, “I want my scholars to know that there is not a single place they don’t belong.”
It was my privilege to speak this week at an event for Mission Waco, an amazing ministry to people in need. Its 34 programs include job training, after school programs, a fair trade market, and assistance with food, clothing, and legal services. One of the speakers told us that he had been homeless and in and out of prison some 20 times. After connecting with Mission Waco, he is now a college graduate and is studying for his masters in social work. He wants to do for others what so many have done for him.
As I noted yesterday, our view of the world determines our work in the world. If people are the random result of coincidence or chaos, their stories have no intrinsic worth. But somehow we know there’s more to the story. The popularity of Brandon Stanton’s photo blog says something about the value of every person. Investors helping middle school students in Brooklyn or impoverished people in Waco know that every soul matters.
“The sanctity of human life” is not just a doctrine—it is a lifestyle. Consider Jesus’ example. (Tweet this) He taught crowds, but touched individuals. He knew tax collectors and fishermen by name, and gave his time to Sanhedrin members and lepers alike. Now he wants to love the people we know through us. When I meet people who are changing their world for God, whether they live in Waco, Cuba, or Beijing, they have one thing in common: Jesus is real to them. He is not just a sermon topic or theological doctrine. He is a living, active Person in their lives. They relate to him as they relate to their friends and family members. They talk to him and listen to him. They ask him for his help and wisdom. They go through their day practicing the presence of Christ. And Jesus makes them his body (1 Corinthians 12:27), loving the world one person at a time through them.
When last did Jesus change your life? When last did you do something—or not do something—because you prayed to him, listened to him, worshipped him, or read his word? A man once said of his North American church, “We have all of Jesus we want. Not all of Jesus we need, but all of Jesus we want.”
Do you have all of Jesus you need today?