I was reminded of something powerful today. What? Actually several “somethings.” This afternoon a man walked into our church building here in Oklahoma and began asking for help and sharing his story. Our church receptionists are the usually the first line of contact, and from my vantage point down the hall in my office, all I could hear was “my name is … and I just got out of prison, I need some help.” I got the privilege of taking this visitor across town to another property the church runs that houses clothing and a food bank. We were able to help this man out with some immediate clothing needs. And then he requested a bicycle to ride to his home. We don’t have bicycles at the compassion center. So we began calling and praying and waiting and we found a bike.
The first thing I was reminded of today is that all people, regardless of their story are children of God. Here is an ex-con coming to the one place that he should to ask help. He had been a couple of other places in town, and no one could help him. It seems to me that when you drop the ex-con” bomb on someone, people get scared and clam up. Today, the Lord reminded me that He loves all people and he expects his followers to love all his people too, regardless of race, class, gender, intelligence, past, etc.
Secondly, listening to my new friend share his new found faith in the Lord I was encouraged by his simplistic faith. Now, this isn’t a put down. He had a need, he asked God to help, God worked through his people to provide for this man’s need. Does it or should it ever get more complicated than that? I didn’t think so either!
Thirdly, God can and does use his imperfect followers to bless other people. How ironic is it that when the man walked into the church building I was working on my lesson for class tomorrow night and then later today I am studying for my sermon on October 21? What kind of Christian would I be, if I said, “I am busy studying the Bible, I don’t really have time right now to serve a person in need!” I have learned over and over that distractions are divine appointments to see God at work. We all work with deadlines and like to think that the projects we are engaged in or definitely important. But are we so busy and conceited to think that what we are doing is too important even to be distracted by a person God just so happens to put in our path? I hope not.
Ex-cons need Jesus too. And sometimes they need someone to believe in them enough to give them a chance to succeed. Whether real iron bars or own sin-prisons that we all wrestle with, we all like this man needing clothes and bike need someone to believe in us. We need to be reminded that we are worth someone’s time and effort. I believe that as followers of Jesus if we were willing to demonstrate this simple feat more often we would really help outsiders, outcasts, the down and out, and non-believers what love in action looks like.