The Ripple Effect
by Tim Hall
Small acts can lead to effects much greater than we anticipate.
Earthquakes have again struck the South Pacific region. The first was the strongest, occurring on September 29, registering as a magnitude 8.0. The force of the shifting plates beneath the surface of the ocean led to a tsunami. The island nation of American Samoa was hit by massive waves and the damage is great. The ripples from the powerful earthquake pounded the coastlines with devastating effect.
Even small forces can have powerful effects. The “butterfly effect” is a concept popularized by Edward Lorenz in 1963. A feature of chaos theory, this principle proposes that even the small puff of air displaced by the wings of a butterfly contribute to weather patterns that eventually turn into hurricanes or tornadoes.
Though many scoff at such a suggestion, serious scientists give it credence. A talk Lorenz gave in 1972 was given the title, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?”
“Random acts of kindness” is an idea that has been promoted since the early 1980s. By doing little things for total strangers, they’ll be encouraged to do similar acts of kindness for others. At the toll booth, don’t just pay your own toll; pay for the car behind you, too. As you’re walking out of the grocery store, offer to carry a bag for an elderly customer. Positive results have been noted by those who practice such acts.
A tsunami of kindness was begun 2,000 years ago when Jesus walked upon the earth. Peter summed up Jesus’ ministry by saying he “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38, NKJV). Total strangers were blessed in many different ways by their chance encounters with the Lord.
John wrote his first letter many years after Jesus concluded his ministry, yet the ripples were still being felt. “We love him because he first loved us,” John wrote (1 John 4:19). In the same letter John elaborated on the principle: “By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
Distance and time have not weakened the power of Jesus’ ripples. Benevolent acts have multiplied many times over through the centuries as Christ’s followers show his compassion to others. Service has been given to the sick, the homeless, orphans and widows by total strangers. They love because Jesus first loved them.
Our challenge is the same: To let the ripples of Jesus’ love flow through us. “And let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). Waves of love and good works will leave wonderful marks, no matter where they wash.