Friday, December 20, 2013

Providing Understanding

(Submitted by John Dennie)
The rich man is wise in his own eyes, But the poor who has understanding sees through him. Proverbs 28:11 (NASB95)

It’s the Christmas season and I’m thinking of an Easter story. More specifically, I’m thinking of when Peter denied Jesus. This most likely makes no sense to you, but let me explain. A couple of weeks ago, God gave me the opportunity to help someone who was homeless. It required that I accompany the young man as he navigated the waters of gaining a state ID card, signing a lease agreement for an apartment and turning on utilities. Each of these processes is relatively simple and all of them can be accomplished in about an hour. That is if you’re not homeless. For the homeless it’s much harder and takes much longer. You see, our culture’s system of checks and balances, credit and identification verification require a greater deal of effort for homeless folks. That’s a topic for another day. Back to my Christmas…uh…Easter story. During the process of helping this young man, I stood with him at the utility company waiting for his identification to be verified. As I waited, I randomly picked up a brochure that was meant to inform people of the specifics related to turning gas on. At the top of the brochure, written in big bold letters was the word NOTICE. Stay with me here. This is important. Now the line I happened to be standing in is the same line where people come to ask for extensions on the electric bills they can’t afford to pay. It’s the same line where people stand if their electricity has been turned off for non-payment. It’s the same line where desperate people wait anxiously to hear whether or not they’re going to have a warm house on a cold night. In other words, this is a line that is most often populated by the marginalized of our society. And here I was standing in the same line with a card that had the word NOTICE written in big letters. I realized the card in my hand probably looked much like a warning for me to pay an electric bill. And then it hit me. As I stood in this line, holding this card, people would think I was poor. They would think I didn’t take care of my business. They would think I couldn’t pay my electric bill. They would judge me. I didn’t want to be judged, so suddenly I was embarrassed. I was fearful some stranger walking by would see me in the line and wouldn’t understand my station in life. I looked over at the young man I was with. He was a little unkempt – a little ragged. I should have seen Jesus in his face, but I didn’t. You see, more than one theologian has made the connection with the face of the poor and the face of Jesus. Leon Morris said that when we are meeting human need we are in the very presence of the Lord. Mother Teresa said, “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.” Lest you think better of me, let me point out I was meeting someone’s need with the power of the largest church in town backing me up. It wasn’t my money I was spending. In fact, I wasn’t even spending my own time. This was part of my day at work. Yet, here I was looking like Saint Dennie on the outside and embarrassed by association on the inside. I had to fight back tears when I realized I was Peter. I walk with Jesus every day, but when it really counted, when the rubber hit the road, I was ashamed of Him. Here’s the point I want to make. God broke my heart that day when He helped me realize serving the poor is more than providing handouts, education and opportunity. Indeed, serving the least of these means we must clothe ourselves in a willingness to lay aside judgment and truly embrace all people. We must befriend them and never deny their value or their worth. So, my prayer today is that God would truly break my heart for what breaks His. I also pray that He would perform the same work in you. That when you give this Christmas, you give with your heart as well as your hand.

Scripture to Claim:
But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.  Luke 14:13–14 (NASB95)

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