Wow! Even in just the first chapter, there is plenty to think about. The first idea I underlined was when Tom Davis wrote about Jesus not putting conditions on the help He offers. He doesn't put conditions on His help because each and every person is worth the risk and is worth helping. Why is it that I often second guess the risk of helping someone? Is there even a risk involved? I often think that if I help, then I’ll become too involved…which translates into too much time and commitment being involved. Heaven forbid that my life be interrupted or that I’d be inconvenienced. But wait, don’t I want to be more like Christ? Why do the excuses seem to always hold us back?
In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.” I want to live by this verse; I strive to live this verse out. Maybe I should say, I strive to live this verse out when it’s easy or fun or doesn’t interrupt my day. Other times, I ignore this verse because then things would be too complicated, dirty, messy, difficult, time consuming or just downright uncomfortable! (And why can I come up with twice as many reasons to not act upon Jesus’ command?)
Tom makes a very good suggestion—to get out of bed every morning looking for Jesus. He’s talking about finding Jesus in the eyes of the people around you, those who are often ignored or forgotten about. Think about that man who hangs out on the corner begging for money…he’s dirty and smelly, but Jesus loves him too! For me, I immediately think about the man who lives in the bus stop just down the street from me in Liberia. His name is Abraham. The only other things I know about him are that: he is homeless, there are many days that he’s without food or clothes, he’s missing his right arm and his high-pitched mumbles are sometimes difficult to understand. But there’s no excuse, because I can usually understand it when he says, “help me.”
I have never taken the time to stop and talk—and I mean, really talk—with Abraham. Sometimes I wave when I drive past, or I might say hello as I walk past. But if I were to be completely honest, there are some days where I just don’t feel like dealing with him or telling him, again, that I don’t have any money (or that I just don’t want to give him any money), so I walk on the other side of the road. How horrible is that?! And, what story does that sound like? I have obviously failed—I am not the good Samaritan to Abraham! Now I have to ask myself—why am I choosing not to do something? And if I were totally honest, I’d have to say that I don’t reach out because of selfish reasons. It wouldn’t be fun or easy or short nor would it be possible to not have any strings attached. Christ helps me—no matter the circumstance or the outcome—because I’m worth the risk. I’m no better than Abraham, so why isn’t he worth the risk?
As Mother Teresa says, “the dying, the crippled, the mentally ill, the unwanted, the unloved—they are Jesus in disguise.” By choosing to ignore Abraham, I am choosing to ignore Christ. It’s not always going to be easy to go and do what Jesus commands us as believers to do, but He calls us to “go and do the same” (Luke 10:37).
It’s not a coincidence that I have drawn closer to the Father when I obey and go and do as He has called me to do. I think that when we have the most resistance to following Jesus, but we choose to follow Him anyway, that is when the experience is the sweetest. And the more that I obey, the more my eyes are opened to the world around me and the more I experience His ultimate joy.
I have spent a lot of time with the unloved, forgotten children of Liberia. I can tell you that Tom is right, in that, you can find Jesus in the eyes of the people around you. I have looked into the eyes of an orphan in Liberia, and I have seen Christ—over and over again! I feel closest to Christ when I’m in Liberia, and I think it’s because every morning I ask Jesus to allow me to see the world through His eyes, and then I see Him in the eyes of all of the children around me.
And to those of you who aren’t in Liberia—Christ showing up in the eyes of poverty isn’t limited to location! Live like Christ. Look for Jesus all around you. Look into the eyes of the unlovely. Be His hands and feet. Go and do the same.
Come back tomorrow for my thoughts on Chapter 2 (This Shrinking World).
P.S. You should also check out Seth Barnes!