I feel convicted, and I have a tight and sick feeling in my stomach to prove it. A man, slightly inebriated, rocked up on our front door tonight at 10PM. I went out to find out what he wanted and we chatted. He had just hitch-hiked from Newdegate, a few hundred kilometres away, and was needing a place to stay. About five to ten years ago the Baptist minister before us let him sleep in the church next door for a night or two, and so he wanted to see if he could stay there again.
He was drunk, yes, but apparently his wife died two days ago. He was in a real bad place. He had his own sleeping bag, all he wanted was a floor and a roof above his head for the night. At ten pm it was 11degrees, the first real cold night of the year. You could understand with the death of your wife, being in an unfamiliar town, and the chill in the air, you would want to sleep within four walls. and so he came to the Baptist manse.
I was suspicious of this stranger, and a bit stand-offish as I sussed him out. He took my attitude as saying no. He thought that he had scared me (which he hadn’t), and for that he was sorry. He then left. All I could do was stand at the gate and watch him disappear into the darkness.
Once I could no longer see him I slowly walked back up to the house, a bit perplexed at what had just happened. It wasn’t the unannounced visitor that threw me, we get a visitor like him a few times a year. What threw me was my attitude and reaction. I felt so convicted, why didn’t I let him stay till the morning? Why was I stand-offish like he had just ruined a good night? And when he left why did I just stand there? I couldn’t believe myself.
As I got into the house, all I could hear in my mind were the words from Matthew 25, “When did we see you hungry?” Two groups of people said that in the story Jesus told. The first group, the blessed, fed the poor, looked after the widow and orphan, took in the stranger. And Jesus said when you did these things for the least of these, you did it for me.
Then Jesus told the second group, the cursed, that they didn’t feed him or look after him, and for that they wouldn’t be in the Kingdom when he returned at the end of time. In response to this claim the cursed asked the same question, “When did we see you hungry?” And Jesus replies, “What you didn’t do to the least of these, you didn’t do for me.”
I’ve said no to people in the past for various reasons, but this time it was different, this time I knew I was in the wrong, this time I was acting like the cursed. This time I should have said yes because this time, what I knew about Jesus compelled me to.
For the last little while I have been reading a few books (King Jesus Gospel, and Simply Jesus), and these books have helped me to see the Scriptures in a fresh perspective. They have helped me to see Jesus’ Kingship and Kingdom in a new way. As a result of this journey I have been preaching every Sunday about how Jesus is the King of the Cosmos, and we are to serve him. Serving him involves the Holy Spirit, through his Church, bringing his reign into every part of life here on earth; political, social, spiritual, environmental, etc. Feeding the poor, providing shelter for the homeless, standing up against unjust and corrupt policy, restoring broken relationships, caring for the elderly, proclaiming the Gospel, and the list goes on, are all ways of bringing Jesus’ Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven.
And here I was, stand-offish, cold, saying no to someone that Jesus loves and cares about. Basically through saying no to this man I had said “no” to Jesus; The king of the Cosmos that compels me to be his image bearer here on earth.
The story has a sad ending. Once I got into the house I knew I had to go after him, which I eventually did. I got in the car and drove around the town for thirty minutes searching for him. When I found him I would apologise for my behaviour and take him back to the house so he could sleep. But it was to no avail. I couldn’t find him anywhere. All I could do was pray that he came across someone more compassionate who would take him in.