Becoming like Jesus is not easy – after all, he lived a perfect life. There are some parts of his teaching and example which we as the Western Church have come to see as “radical”, and therefore reserved for people who are particularly holy or radical themselves. The trouble is that these “radical” things were never supposed to be anything other than normal for Christians.
This is part two of a three part exploration of these “radical” teachings. You can read part one here. I hope that these posts will stir something in your heart as you read them, as much as they stir mine while I write them.
He was in pretty bad shape. He smelt and looked scruffy; his beard was ragged and his teeth were rotting. To top this all off, he’d recently been bitten by a rat. That’s right, a rat. I know this because he showed me.
In the past, I might have tried the best I could to avoid any kind of contact with this man. At best, I might have given the universal signal for “Sorry, I don’t have any change” with a shrug as I passed him by without even breaking a stride.
However, this time was different. I was out in Birmingham city centre with my wife Annie for date night. We’d had a lovely meal and were heading down New Street to get a coffee when we were approached by this man. His request was simple; he needed money so that he could go somewhere and have a bath. That’s why he showed me his rat bite. It was pretty gross.
At that moment, all the different arguments people use to avoid giving money to people like this man ran through my mind. What if he’s lying? Is he going to use the money to buy drugs or alcohol? Should I just buy him some food? As for the last question, food was not what he needed; he assured me he’d eaten. The first two questions are harder to answer. I suspect that even if he hadn’t been bitten by a rat, he’d certainly been got by something and it definitely needed cleaning up.
While those are valid questions to ask, I’ve found (upon honest personal reflection) that the number one reason why I haven’t helped people like this in the past is because I didn’t want to. Either I felt that I was too busy to stop and give them my time, or I didn’t want to give them my money, or I didn’t want to touch them in case they made me dirty. I wonder if you would discover the same thing if you were to be brutally honest with yourself. Take a moment to think about that.
If we’re serious about wanting to be more like Jesus, we can’t afford to think like that. Jesus broke down all the barriers we put up; for him, there was no such thing as an ‘undesirable’ person – people were just people. He touched lepers (Matthew 8:1-4), manifested a meal for over 5,000 rather than ask them to walk to buy their own (John 6:1-15), rescued a woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), sought out and ate with Zacchaeus the tax collector (Luke 19:1-10) included among his closest followers a group of smelly fishermen, a tax collector, a freedom fighter and a man who he knew would betray him (Matthew 10:1-14) and forgave the men who crucified him (Luke 23:34). Being a Christian means living in such a way as to become more like Jesus each day. If that’s our goal, we have to make room in our hearts to bless people – even those we wouldn’t choose to bless.
Being a Christian means living in such a way as to become more like Jesus each day. If that’s our goal, we have to make room in our hearts to bless people – even those we wouldn’t choose to bless.
I gave the man all the money I had in my pocket. That’s right, I’ve become one of th