I had an opportunity to speak at a bible study at Mt. Pisgah United Methedost Church in Richmond, Va today. My friend Phil, his girlfriend, Christine, and I were asked to share stories of how we have been involved in God loving others. I share a couple brief interactions I have had with some people in need. My goal was to call those in attendance to action; it was to encourage tangible results. I left the church frustrated because many people came to me and told me how much they enjoy my story or me sharing. One woman told me about how she could relate to my faith story because she went through the same thing.
Yet, what is the purpose of good stories? What is the purpose of attending a church? What is the purpose of studying the Bible, etc? If this time does not bring about action and change, what good is it? I don’t know.
I haven’t had many interactions with the older generation (60+), but from my little interaction, I have found complacency and a desire to hear good things and blessings. Maybe a mentality sets in that after so many years one has sacrificed and served enough. I hope that mindset never comes into my life. Why live when life is about comfort, ease, blessing, fond memories, etc? How meaningless, meaning (at least thus far for me) comes from giving of myself (out of God’s abundant blessing on me) to/for others. I hope my whole life embodies this if I live so long.
Let me start off by telling you a little bit about how I came to be here today.
After spending the first 16 years of my life attending a private Baptist school, I had the opportunity to leave the Christian life behind me. And I did completely that. From 16 to 21, my entire focus in life was about my own pleasure. If I wanted something and didn’t feel like paying for it, I would steal it. I manipulated and abused the hearts of some wonderful girls in my life for my own pleasure. I filled my life with alcohol and sex to further fulfill my desire to “live it up.”
I came to a point where I was so fed up with my lifestyle that I called out to God for help. He first completely and instantly took away my desire to steal. Soon thereafter, he removed my desire for sex and then finally for alcohol.
God placed a desire for Christian community in my heart, leading me to buy a house and intentionally fill it with guys who are living out God’s calling. I have had the blessing of watching God bring my parents into the Christian family in the past year.
1 John 3:17-18
How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
These two verses stand out to me because they call me to help those in need in a loving fashion. I was challenged by this calling because it’s different than how I was living my life. I gave money to my church and rejected those in need who asked for help. I realized that God is not calling an institution to love, because institutions can’t love. People love.
Because of this conviction, I set aside part of my income to give to those I encountered in need. So, I went to the bank of filled my wallets with 5 dollar bills. I was determined to give these bills out to homeless that asked for help.
This resolution was first fulfilled when I passed a homeless man standing in the cold rain asking for help on my way to church. I somehow thought that I was too busy to stop and help the man. Then I told God that I would give the man all my cash if he was still then when I came back through. About 6 hours later I came through around midnight and it was still raining and cold and the man was still there. Although my pride and selfishness didn’t want to, I stopped and handing him all my cash. I found out his name was Glenn.
A short while later, I was heading out to lunch with some co-workers, still with money for the needy in my wallet. Just like high school, I felt pressure to fit-in to what I thought they would like. So, as we approached a needy man in the mall; I realized that this was going to be an opportunity to demonstrate my faith. Even though this man wasn’t asking other’s for money, I knew he would ask me for some. Just as we approached, he looked at me and asked me if I had any change I could spare. I glanced at him and said, “No Thanks” and kept walking. I looked back into his face and felts as though I saw Jesus looking back at me, disappointed. I was reminded of, Matthew 25:45 “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”
Not too long ago, a friend of mine and me went back out to this man, Glenn, that stands on the corner of Washington and Sycamore one night. We found him lying on the sidewalk in the 10 degree weather while his friend Laney was in the street begging for money. We got him up, and listened to him tell a story of how he almost died several weeks earlier because he told God that he didn’t want to live anymore. He continued by saying that when he found himself lying in the road in a pool of his own blood, he told God that he was just kidding. Somehow a woman got him to a hospital where he recovered to continue his life of begging on the street.
We talked with the two of them for a little while, learning about how they both love God in the midst of their poverty. They are constantly reading the Bible through and through and grateful for God blessing them with the few people that care about them. We asked them if there was anything else they needed, after giving them gloves, hats, coats and socks. They told us a few things they could use, and we immediately went to Target, purchased what they needed and gave it to them.
As I left these two wonderful people, God reminded me that the spiritual word is different. Matthew 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
I strive to continue to love those around me. I now know that God wants me to bless others by loving them. I now know that institutions or churches don’t love, because they can’t. People love.