1 Corinthians 14:1 a “Pursue love, …”
1 Timothy 6:11 b “… and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness.”
2 Timothy 2:22 b “… and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
What if we each embarked on a pursuit of love in Jesus Name to help the hurting?
The disheveled young man sat hunched on the hard and sharp landscaping rocks in the temporary shade of the building. His clothes were newish but dusty and a bit too large for him. His shaggy sun-bleached hair nearly covered his eyes. The scrubbed and happy family approached on the sidewalk. They were on their way to celebrate Father’s Day in the restaurant; a treat from a grown daughter.
The father of the family noticed the despondent human and immediately felt his heart lurch. “He looks tired and hot. Thirsty. Discouraged,” the man thought. To the younger man he said, “Hello, how are you?”
As the family passed by, the young man managed a soft, “Fine.”
Soon seated, the family began to settle down, survey the menus, and joke with the waitress. The air conditioning was working well, and the ice water was refreshing. All around them were happy families honoring their fathers. Yet, the young man sitting alone outside in the shrinking shade in the June heat would not leave this dad’s heart.
“Would you all mind if I took something to drink to that young man out there?” the dad asked. The family looked up, a little surprised. “Maybe ice water? A chilled water bottle? He might even be hungry. Maybe we could take him some food in a take-out container. We can put it on a separate ticket, and I’ll pay for it.”
Everyone was thinking, but one soon joined in. “Why don’t you go ask him if he wants anything, first.”
“If you come with me.”
So it was decided. The dad and one daughter excused themselves and made their way back into the glaring hot day. There he sat; the young man in his narrow strip of shade.
“Hello again.” the man began. “Are you hungry? And thirsty? Would you like something to eat and drink?”
“I’m hungry!” said the young man jumping to his feet and taking a few steps toward the restaurant with a huge smile on his face.
The young man had misunderstood. Apparently, he thought they were inviting him into the restaurant to eat with them. Awkward. Only a split second to decide what to do. Explain it to him? “No, you can’t come in. You must sit in the heat. We’ll bring your food to you in a styrofoam box.” No! That would never do!
Why not share their table? If they could feed him, surely they could give him respite from the heat. They could also offer hospitality and friendliness to someone who looked to be very alone. So, in they went, the three of them to join the others. The waiting family members were surprised and taken aback, at first, but soon genuine love and warmth flowed around the table and amongst the diners.
That was the beginning of a long but blessed day. The family and the young man spent the entire day together. In the end, the family helped him on his way home, but he enriched their lives, as well. They met a Christian brother who had fallen on very hard times. He had been homeless for several months by the time the family met him, and he had experienced some very desperate days and nights. Yet, his quiet, gentle, and well-mannered character was intact, and perhaps strengthened by hardship. He had no bitterness; there was no whining or complaining. Only a quiet strength and sweetness. Amazing.
Folks talk of “God appointments.” This, most assuredly, was one of them. It’s as if God took an unsuspecting, yet willing, group of Christians and together used them as one vessel to scoop His beloved child off the scorching summer streets and send that child back to his loved ones.
The dad shuddered to think, “What if we had ignored him and pushed away all our compassionate inclinations?” He had done that before. Many times. What had changed his heart? Jesus had. The Lord had brought this man to the point of desperation. Illness. No money to pay bills. Lawsuits. Repossessions. Possible loss of home. This man knew what it felt like to be penniless, and to be practically invisible in a society where worth is measured by outward appearance and bank account balance. He personally knew the pain, injustice, and absolute randomness of poverty.
This man also knew God’s word. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells His Disciples about a time when he “comes in His glory,” and “will sit on His glorious throne.” Jesus describes two exchanges between the King (himself) and others.
34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in;
36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’
37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?
38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’
40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’
41 “Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘ Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
42 for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’
44 Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’
45 Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’
(Do these actions make the sheep righteous? I don’t believe so. I believe that, because the blessed sheep are already righteous, they care for the “least of these.” I believe their actions are the fruit of their salvation which is by grace. It is as if the King examines the fruit of their lives right in front of them to expose what is in their hearts.)
John 13:12-15 “So when He (Jesus) had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.'”
Romans 12:13 “… contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.”
1 Corinthians 13:3 “And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”
1 Timothy 5:9-10 “A widow is to be put on the list only if … having a reputation for good works; and if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has assisted those in distress, and if she has devoted herself to every good work.”
Hebrews 13:1-3 “Let love of the brethren continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.”
James 1:27 “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
James 2:14-17 “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
1 John 3:16-18 “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”