There was something that happened during my seminary years and my first ministerial job at Korean United Methodist Church of Greater Washington (KUMC of GW). It was a small moment (well compared to other significant moments in my life) and I wonder if I’d remember it at all if I didn’t journal it down when it happened.
KUMC of GW had a wonderful ministry where the youth would go out to the parks of DC and hand out sandwiches to the less fortunate.
During my last year at both seminary and KUMC of GW, the youth ministry were trying to do come up with a summer mission/work team involving the streets of DC and the people who call those streets “home.”
We partnered up with a mission ministry that concentrated their efforts in this area of need. Eventually, the pastor of the program joined us on one of our excursions to the parks of DC.
We were handing out our last bags of sandwiches, and as always, there were more people than lunch sacks. As the kids were getting in the car, one of the homeless men came up to the passenger window of the van. Thinking he needed a sandwich, the pastor said, “Sorry, we don’t have any more sandwiches. But Jesus loves you.”
The man started yelling back, “I know Jesus loves me! But what about you?”
I think everyone in the van (and myself, the driver) didn’t know how to respond. But the pastor simply replied, “Jesus loves you.”
The man became louder and angrier and yelled “You’re supposed to love me! You’re supposed to love me! You’re supposed to love me!” (I censored some of the actual words he used, because God forbid, a pastor swears… even if it’s from directly quoting someone).
And the pastor kept responding with “Jesus loves you” while the man yelled “You’re supposed to love me.”
The pastor looked at me and gave the signal to drive off. And so we did.
It wasn’t until I was in Hawaii, about 2 or so years later, when this moment would have an impact in my life.
How many times do we hide behind the sentiments of “Jesus loves you” or “I’ll pray for you” so that we don’t have to get involved? I’m sure more than not, it’s not done on purpose.
But, I’m sure you’ve experienced moments (I know I have) where you look at the situation and think, “Oh man, that’s gonna be ugly. Don’t want to be involved in that really.” So we just say, “I’ll pray for you.” Or “Don’t worry, Jesus loves you.”
I don’t know what that man wanted. But for me, maybe he knew how “fake” these things can get. I’m sorry “fake” is not the right word… how “impersonal” these things can get. I mean, during my time at KUMC of GW, I’d just hand the sandwich and walk away. Maybe exchange a brief hello here and there. Never engaged anyone. Never really looked anyone in the eye. Never really took time to listen to their story. Never took time to do anything. Just, here ya go, have a blessed day!
We need to love the people that God loves. And some times, that kind of loving involves us getting our hands dirty. It’s a great and awesome thing to tell someone that Jesus loves them deeply. But the best way to tell someone that Jesus loves them is to embody that love ourselves and to show them that Jesus loves them… through me. And us.