There was a time in my life where I would have told you that you would have NEVER caught me with a mohawk or tattoos on me! However as you can see, today was the day that a smidgen of Hell began to freeze. Which all this begs the question: What would I do; or How far would I go, to impact the world for Jesus? If getting a mohawk, some tattoos, re-piercing my ear from college, and splashing vodka on my body would better the Kingdom of God for Christ….well then, COUNT ME IN!
Medora Christian Church never saw him coming….the him seen above. The unknown person, who on this 33 degree, fierce blowing wind day decided he needed to be near God’s house today. Pacing back and forth around and in front of the church, constantly looking at the invitation on the sign that reads, “A House for Sinners; Come as you are!” He still wondered if God had time for a broken down, alcoholic, recovering drug addict who had recently had the crap beat out of him for drug money. Will anyone notice him? Would anyone care enough to invite him IN to God’s house? Trying to get away from the howling wind and numbing hands, upon the forth time sitting in an area to try and get warm on the steps of the church; someone finally asked if he was ok….
He didn’t quite know what to say, it hurt to speak much….his face throbbing from the bruising of his face, and all he wanted was to feel safe and loved. He told the first gentleman, “I’m ok, just wanting to be close to God’s house today.” A pat on the shoulder later, he walked away into the church with his family while they stared at him going inside. Another 10 minutes or so passed and finally a group of 4 men approached him asking if he was ok and if he wanted to go inside the church to warm up. Two of them helped him up to his feet, still unbalanced from the hangover he was feeling, and they walked him up the ramp and into the staff entrance of the church. Two other women who accompanied some of the men raced past the man as if they were unsure and scared. The rest escorted him down a hallway as one man approached with a chair and sat him in the hallway out in the open. Approached with a cup of black coffee, a man gave him the coffee to warm up and offered him something to eat, which he politely declined. They spoke of him warming up and then eventually going into the sanctuary for worship if he wanted to as another few of the men patted his shoulder and walked off. He was alone again. Sitting in an unfamiliar hallway with only a nearby Sunday school class meeting some 200 feet away, the man just sat shaking from the cold trying to warm up with the coffee given to him.
Around 10 minutes went by before anyone approached the man again, this time to just pat the shoulder of him making sure he was ok and then quickly walked off again. Another 5-7 minutes passed when finally two men approached him and asked if he desired to go into the sanctuary for worship and they proceeded to help him up and walk him into the sanctuary sitting him into a cushy seat in the back that resembled a thrown. The man handed him a mint and a bulletin and went to his seat, leaving the man again alone to his thoughts and staring at a bulletin while he felt the eyes of near 100 people upon his head. Announcements, then worship and finally communion…where a man from their sound board came and sat with him as he took of communion. How did he know that he even knew what communion was? Whose responsibility was it to even ask him such a question? Isn’t that a necessary question and part of salvation?
Finally, the sermon time and the man felt uneasy again being alone and wiping the flowing of tears from the communion time where he just had to cry for some reason. He stood up and began staggering towards the door as if to leave and as he did, a woman was up front talking about how blessed she was and thanking the church for their many prayers and love shown to her and her family for a recent hard time she went through. The man then stopped, feeling as if he needed to also, even if in a small way, thank the church for their small showing of compassion towards him. So….he staggered near the front asking to say something and then one of the men who escorted him in, stood up next to him and loaned him his Bible to read a familiar scripture: LUKE 10:25-37 THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?”
27 The man answered, “ ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ “
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by.32 A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him.35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,* telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”
It was that time the man told the congregation that the church had robbed him the morning of Jesus Christ. That many of those sitting there listening to his voice passed by him numerous times like the priest and the levite did. Why did they show compassion for him in the first place and bringing him inside the church; and then walked away as if in passing by like the priest and levite. Why did they go up to the line and real love and then stop?
That’s when I revealed the man to be me.
One of the things that perplexed me the most during this process was the obviousness of two things: ONE–The openness and willingness to show compassion and concern, like that of the Good Samaritan. TWO–The obvious and non-deliberate FEAR of going beyond the boundaries of what the world tells us that our limits are. According to the parable, its the taking of responsibility for the man beaten; or in lament’s terms….actually tending the sheep. What makes a person go only so far as to the line the world has drawn for us? Why doesn’t Jesus’ words in JOHN 21:15-17 have to be repeated 3 times to Simon Peter for His point to get across of the importance of our responsibility?
“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”
We are creatures of habit and have to be told numerous times to have something important sink into our way of thinking and acting. I wasn’t condoning my church for not stepping past their fears and uncomfortableness; I was simply trying to empower them to see that through Jesus, we can move BEYOND the line the world tells us is our limit! Our limits….the sin upon the cross that we like to hold on to and be beaten with; sets our limitations with the fear of the unknown. BUT….the powerful words of Jesus rings in our ears if we listen intently from Matthew 16:24-26:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”
We MUST deny ourselves. We MUST pick up that cross and recognize the load we THINK we’ll bare is gone because HIS burden is easy and HIS yoke is light. Pick up that cross of real redemption and follow HIM! Pick up that cross….bare your soul and fears to Him and take responsibility for those around you Jesus places in your path. CROSS THE LINE….let the cross destroy the world’s line of limits for us and go beyond what we think we can do for Christ and embrace what He will do through us in obedience of faith!