Saturday, October 18, 2014

Almost Ashamed

She was cold. She was tired. She was thirsty. But mostly, she was hungry. Truth be told, she was starving. She was, in all reality, dying from hunger. All of her family was gone. Their bodies had surrendered to the fight days ago.

She had one other problem though. She had no money. She didn't have a single penny to her name. At this point, she was going to have to steal if she ever wanted to eat again. 

"Who cares?" she thought. "Even if I get caught, at least I'll have shelter and they'll feed me."

These wouldn't have been her thoughts under normal circumstances. She knew stealing was wrong. She knew it was a sin. But in conditions like this, the brain makes us do crazy things. 

After days of walking, eating nothing but a stale piece of bread, the only food she'd had to bring with her, she finally made it into a town that the famine hadn't affected. It was full of life and energy and . . . food! She walked past a stand and grabbed an apple as she kept going. She found a hidden place to eat, but she had already drawn attention. 

The condition of her body was enough to let people know she was starving to death and that she was desperate for food. They'd had their eyes on her from the second she stepped foot into their precious town. They "knew" she'd try to steal food. 

As soon as she took the first bite of that sweet apple, they were upon her. They grabbed her and marched her through town as if she were on display. Through the entire walk, she heard remarks from the townspeople. 

"Don't give her our resources!"

"She probably only stole from us so she could go to jail and get free food!"

"Pretty soon everyone from wherever she came is gonna hear how good she has it and they'll be here next!"

"They'll overrun our town! They'll eat all our food! Pretty soon we will be the ones starving!"

She tried not to cry and make more of a spectacle of herself than she already had, but it was difficult. Where was the compassion? In her town, in her family, she had been raised quite differently than this. Even in her sickened state, she recalled verses her father had read from his Bible, in Matthew 25, shortly before the starvation took hold of him. 

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.'

Then these righteous ones will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?'

And the King will say, 'I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me.'"

She then recalled the next part of the parable, where the people on the left were criticized for not doing those things for him and how they asked him when had they neglected him in that way. 

"And he will answer, 'I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'"

Even in her near death state, she knew her father was right and these people were wrong. 

Would justice win out or would the townspeople have their way?

The above story is a sad one. How terrible that a town wouldn't welcome a dying woman and meet her needs. How awful that they would turn her away and be afraid of others "like her" coming to have their needs met, needs that couldn't be met in their own hometown. How horrendous for this dying woman. People aren't really like this though. Right?

Friend, I'm here to tell you, today, that it is because of a situation of this type that I am almost ashamed to call myself a Christian. 

You see, a dying man, a man that couldn't get sufficient help in his own country, came to us for help. Maybe he did it the wrong way. I don't know. I do know that any one of us would have done whatever it took to get life saving help. And we did help him, but we criticized him and complained throughout the entire process. We said that if he got better then he should be put on trial for his deeds. We were angry with him. We called him names. We prayed that his illness wouldn't spread to us. We prayed that his sickness wouldn't affect us. 

Did any of us actually pray for his healing? Did any of us plead with God on his behalf? Did any of us bring his case before the throne of the Great Healer and ask Him to make this man better? Did any of us give of our resources to help this man who was dying, not only physically but possibly spiritually as well?

It's not enough to be a missionary and go "over there" to help them out, if we can't even welcome them to "our" country with open arms and any prayers and resources we have to aid in their recovery.

We were/are so worried about US that we didn't take time to realize this was a person. This was a human created in God's image. He was no different than any of us. 

I can only hope and pray that God isn't as ashamed of the way we acted as I am. I can only hope and pray that He is more merciful and gracious to us than we were to this man. I can only hope and pray that if/when another situation like this arises, we will step up to the plate and be the people He has called us to be. 

(By the way, since I never actually said it, if you're still wondering, I'm referring to the man who came over with Ebola.)

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