Last Spring I was in Omaha, Nebraska with my wife and our two little boys, Brycen (5) and Gavin (2). We were there to visit the Omaha Zoo… and a very good friend who had recently given birth to a little girl. On our second day in the city we made our way to the Old Market, a historic section of downtown Omaha that once supplied the region with household goods, produce and dairy. It has since been turned into a tourist trap filled with restaurants, art galleries, and the occasional street performer.
As we walked Howard Street, Brycen and Gavin began to play, wrestling and laughing as they stumbled their way down the old brick sidewalk. They were oblivious to their surroundings and before I knew it… before I could regain control… they careened toward an old man standing in their path. The old man quickly leapt to the side and let the boys continue on their way. I was embarrassed and began to apologize immediately. As the old man turned toward me I noticed a big smile on his face. He was laughing, sharing in the joy of the two little boys who had almost knocked him to the ground. “It’s all right. No harm done,” said the old man. His smile was genuine and sincere. He continued with a question, “Do you have anything to spare?” Of course I did, but my mind was now processing the situation. This man was homeless! What had he done to bring this upon himself? He would probably waste my money on drugs or alcohol! “Sorry,” I quickly replied, “I’ve got nothing to spare.” The old man looked me in the eyes, smiled larger than he had before, and said, “That’s o.k. Have a great day!” As he walked away the words of Jesus came into my mind, “Give to everyone who begs from you…” (Luke 6:30, ESV). I started walking in the other direction, following my family, arguing with my conscience. “I can’t be expected to feed all of Omaha!” I thought to myself. My argument was flawed, empty and hollow. After taking only a few steps in the other direction I was convicted; maybe I could buy him lunch. I turned around, but the old man was already gone.
1 John 3:17-18
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
As believers in Jesus Christ we know that our salvation comes from Christ alone. We know that we can add nothing to what he has accomplished for us, and yet the Scriptures repeatedly challenge us to see the needs of those who are less fortunate, to see the world through the eyes of God. We are asked to care for the poor, we are told to have mercy on the foreigner, and we are even encouraged to pray for our enemy.
Does God not grasp the threat our enemy poses? Does he not understand that the addition of more immigrants presents serious challenges to our already flawed immigration system? Does he not know that we have government and social programs in place to help the poor?
He certainly does! He knows all of that… and much more, but his primary concern is revealing himself to those who do not know him, to those who feel abandoned, to those who feel unloved. It is to them… that he sends you. He has poured his love out, not that we might store it away, but that it might fill us up and overflow into this world with actions and in truth. He sends us out to live our lives for him, and when we do, those who do not know him… see him.
Do you have anything to spare? Of course you do! You have Christ, the definition of love, a love that flows in you and through you… that others might see and share in the joy that you have.
Rev. Troy Tysdal is Director of Communications and Prayer for the Church of the Lutheran Brethren and serves as editor in chief of Faith & Fellowship magazine.