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.
14 thoughts on “A Small Significant Moment”
Joseph, how has the above story changed your life? Are you still working to fit into the the organized church or are you focusing upon following the leading of the Holy Spirit? The real question to answer is who do you serve? It is all talk unless you do something about it.
Ken & Maggie
That thought led to this: https://pressingtoward.wordpress.com/2008/04/18/thursday-night-in-chinatown/
And it completely changed my life. Of course, I still struggle with aligning my will’s with God.
It’s more than trying to “fit into the organized church” but try to lead the church (through prayer and example) to be love those who Christ would love and serve those who Christ would serve, and not be caught in rhetorics and politics.
The answer to “the real question” is, I humbly try my best to serve God and hopefully bring others along the journey of servanthood.
And you’re right, it is all talk unless something is done… and we, as the body of Christ, talk too much. =)
You might find it interesting that I have been corresponding (by email) with a homeliness man in San Diego. Through a combination of circumstances he ended upon on the street. One night I struggled all night about sending him money. This is the usually response. Open one’s coin purse to ease one’s conscience. It is so easy to tell others what they need without ever listening to them or simply to get them to go away.
I was good friends with Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision and later Samaritan’s Purse. I remember him telling me about be pushed through the streets of Lebanon to the city center. He was in a wheel chair. Bullets were ricocheting off the buildings. “Why were you there?” I asked. “To offer a encouragement to a small congregation of believers,” he told me.
I have seen people step over humans on their way to church. I have heard active church people say they could not help because they had a church meeting.
How ofte does Christ have to shed tears of sorrow before someone will respond to humanities heart cries? When we have time? When it is convenient? When someone else will go do it. “Here! Let me give you a few dollars to help you on your way.”
We once had over eighty kids from one high school who had accepted Christ and were excited. We went to close to ten churches asking if we could you their facilities. One pastor told us it didn’t fit into their program. Another said it would raise their janitorial service. On and on. A Catholic priest told us that anything we needed he would get for us. The priest was a Methodist who who made a decision for Christ on the altar of the Catholic Church.
Ken & Maggie
To: Joe & Christ’s Company,
What is it that the “people in need” really need from us?
What is it that the “people who aren’t” really need to do?
What is it that God is calling us to do? To be?
It is not just mere coincidence that yesterday, I preached with the “antitheses” of Jesus in Matthew 5 (“you have heard to not _____ , but I tell you, _______ ). And, I wonder how Jesus would finish the sentence, “You have heard to be a help to homeless people. But, I tell you that __________ ”
My best guess is that Jesus would say, “But, I tell you that you must not just give money out of your pocket, or your time to get to know a homeless person, but you must actually give money out of your companies in fair wages and you must fix your laws so that homeless people have human dignity as much as all people. You must find the causes of homelessness and human suffering and actively work to stop it.”
But, it takes a youth group distributing sandwiches every once in a while and a contemplative, self-examining pastor to actualize God’s grace at work in all of that…
So, now let’s pass the offering basket and have the announcements…
Joseph, your openness and willingness to search the heart of God will lead you to the truth. I read the post you suggested. Sometimes the answers we search for are right before us all the time. He gives us a restless spirit to get our attention. God can use a person who will listen. You do not have to change venues to hear what He has to say to you. God bless you and direct you.
p.James, There is a Proverb I’ll paraphrase. It is better to be still and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. I’m sorry, but you haven’t a clue as to who and why there are homeless.
Ken & Maggie
Wow. How come you never told me this when you were here? It really is a powerful story. I know I’m gonna be thinking about it all day now. 🙂
With all due respect Ken, I think you can apply the Proverbs to yourself as well, because James is a close friend of mine and has an awesome and wonderful heart of God and equips his students to serve in the world in all and any way God has called them to. It’s a huge assumption and accusation to say to someone you don’t know or the ministry that someone is involved in and to say they have no clue about the homeless…
But thanks for keeping the dialogue going.
Hyun, like I said, when it actually happened, I never really took a second thought. I got to school, and wrote in my journal thinking “that was weird” and then a year or so later, I somehow open my journal to that page and was like… wow, i need to do more…
PS. Hyun, come visit me.
Re: Christ’s Company,
Okay, so let’s just assume I don’t have a clue as to who and why they are homeless.
You’re right, I don’t know who you are talking about specifically.
So, tell me: who and why are they homeless?
I want to come visit. Maybe during the summer when I have money and vacation time! 🙂
Joseph – Thanks for sharing this meaningful story. It made me stop and consider today.
Thank you so much for sharing–very moving and applicable beyond the walls of the church. Shout out to Andrew Conrad as I foudny our post through his blog.
Almost every Sunday that I go to church and someone tells me that Jesus loves me, I hold back the urge to ask, “Do you?”
I’m not homeless, but I’m not in a good place spiritually. A lot of it deals from bullying that I’ve experienced at church a while back. Having to deal with everything going wrong in my life all alone has sapped me.
No one at church really cares. When asked how I am, I’m supposed to say, “Fine.” When I don’t, they get uncomfortable and say how Jesus loves me and move the convo onto the weather or something.
“Jesus loves you” and the phatic “Praying for you” (probably don’t know what to pray about since they cut me off rather than listening to why I’ve said things aren’t good)have become covers for, “Don’t involve me.”