On Saturdays (in this case, Sunday), I’m writing my thoughts that have rambled in my brain since hearing the sermon at my church. Today’s entry was inspired by Betsy Nichols’ sermon given at Irving Bible Church, the final in our series, “Whatever.” This one is titled “How We Treat Other People Matters.”
Let me start by saying I’ve never really missed a meal.
I can’t think of a time that I was thirsty that something to quench it wasn’t foreseeable.
I’ve always had pockets of places where I felt at home, whether it was home, school, work, or something extracurricular.
Even though I’ve never cared about fashion, I’ve always had clothes. Too many, really…says the guy who just took some 34 bags to donate to charity when we moved.
Beyond an eye condition that’s treated with special drops and the annual cold that keeps me on the sofa for a day or two, I’ve never really been sick.
The closest I’ve come to prison was during a joyful celebration after my state school football factory won big and we wanted to continue to imbibe and dance in the streets.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have metaphorical experience with those things…you know, those things that run through our minds when we’re snug in our bed but what we think about in the privacy of our brains.
I know what it’s like to have existential angst with no idea where to turn. Your dad dying unexpectedly when you’re 13 will do that.
I’ve known what it’s like to want a little bit more out of life than what my suburban upbringing said I should go after.
I’ve known what it’s like to be wildly misunderstood not only from society in general but even within my own Tribe specifically. See my punk rock view of life for more information.
I know what it’s like to be exposed and be humbled when others got to see whatever it was about me that I didn’t want them to see.
I’ve known what it’s like to feel like something’s wrong that hasn’t been diagnosed…just something not right with me even though things seem fine.
I’ve known what it’s like to feel like you’re not free…that you’re imprisoned by life or choices or expectations or whatever rules you’re supposed to follow; that you’re not in control of anything that happens.
And, in each and every case, while I might not have recognized it at the time, people were the balm. People who were walking with Him. People who were sensitive to how the Spirit was leading them at that moment.
A guy who sat beside me and listened to the deal I made with God to just have Him stay on His side of the universe while I did my thing…and didn’t judge or do much of anything but care and point, every now and again to what the Bible said about God rather than what I’d heard in the Bible Belt.
A friend who was there when I was changing majors 7 times because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and folks kept telling me that business or engineering was where the money was…and he kept telling me to see who I was as created by God and seek Him first. That an abundant life following Him beat the hell out of whatever it is that society tells me is what I should do.
A group of people who really liked my view of the world and not only liked it, but agreed with it, too. A group of folks that appreciated who it was that God made me into and discouraged any and all types of folks who might have felt a pastor needed to be a bit more, *ahem*, conservative.
A group of guys to imbibe with who encourage you when the rest of the world saw you fail. They empathized, sympathized and tough-loved it when they needed to…and we all have had our moments where we needed all the above. But we get each other; accept each other, however motley we may be.
A wife who walked alongside and spoke truth into my life when I went through a time of rethinking who I was and where God was taking me. She did it with love and concern and care and encouragement.
A boss who walked me through a process of eliminating the sin in my life that was keeping me from running the race unentangled rather than trying, wildly unsuccessfully, to manage my behavior. All that did was result in temporary victory, lengthy failure and guilt, repeat process. He talked a lot more about walking with Christ than focusing on the sin, which ultimately has given me freedom beyond what I thought possible.
All of that is why Betsy’s sermon resonated so much with me when she expounded on Matthew 25 a bit:
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire that has been 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 receive me as a guest, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
Those are some hard words…They are just as convicting to me as they are to you…What we are hearing here is the great love of God. Men and women, beneath our conviction, what we are seeing is the unapologetically fierce love of our King who will not let his people stand idly by while there are those who are in need. He has called us to engage. How many times has somebody done that for us? I mean, how many of us in this room have had someone rescue us in our time of need?
Did you notice that my own walk was helped because our King…
…won’t allow people to stand idly by when somebody is in need.
Betsy’s right, man. We’re all called to engage. And sometimes it does look like giving a meal to the homeless. Maybe being a part of providing clean water for a village in Africa either financially or by going. Maybe showing hospitality to folks who are the down-and-out among us, whether real or self-perceived to be that way. Or donating you clothes to those that don’t have them. Possibly even visiting prisoners up the Interstate or standing in a Congolese prison with a few guys giving food and an encouraging Word.
But most often, it looks like being Spirit-led & sensitive to that leading wherever we happen to be whenever we happen to be there. Because you never know if their hunger/thirst/prison is real or metaphorical…and frankly, both matter to the King who unapologetically, fiercely & lovingly won’t let us stand idly by to walk alongside those who need us.
They need us. A person.
So be ready. You never know who you’ll serve and how God may use them later on down the road, man. Just be ready.