Signing up for Jesus’ love

What would Jesus do?  This question, although tragically watered down from the tons of WWJD gear that was passed around a few years back, should be very present on our hearts at all times.

We worked with a church in Las Vegas that reaches out to the poor and homeless throughout the week.  We joined them for a children’s outreach to a neighborhood housing project.  The youth group does an open-air evangelism program once a week with their super cool Transformer truck that turns into a stage.  They have targeted 5 different neighborhoods to love on and minister to.  At the end of their program they hand out large gift bags filled with lots of necessary items to the adults who have gathered and, this is key, to those who had signed up.  This church is very missional, living in one of the roughest neighborhoods in Las Vegas forces a church to do one of two things, 1) shut their doors and start the slow decline into inward servitude (except from 9-11am on Sunday mornings), or 2) do the best you can to love your neighbors in tangible ways all week long.  This place is trying to do the second option.

We spent most of our time on this particular evening just talking and playing with some of the kids who showed up to participate in the Sidewalk Sunday School.  There were close to 100 mothers, fathers and children milling about.  After handing out gift bags we started packing up and getting ready to leave.  Two men who had not participated in the program, and didn’t have children who participated either, walked up to the end of the truck and asked if they could receive one.  More than a dozen plastic bags were piled up behind the cab, but the truck was locked up, the doors were shut.

I’m going to pause the story for a moment to ask the cliche question. . . . “What would Jesus do?”

The standard procedure that this ministry always sticks with is that anyone who signs up while the program is going on can receive a gift bag.  In human terms, this makes sense; pay your dues, stand in line, get the reward.  But is that how our Father works?  From past experience, He rarely works like this.  He is a backwards God, always thwarting our plans or rules and our laws.

The two men who were inquiring about the gift bags were denied.   They were confused, a little angry, and hurt.  Honestly, they handled the denial very well, much better than I had anticipated.  We finished packing up and returned to the church campus.

Andy and I were both confused.  Why?  Why would you deny help to someone who is living in the very neighborhood you are trying to help.  Why would you stick to the letter of the law (truck was locked and the men weren’t on time) instead of the spirit of the law (you are trying to love these people and a simple key turn would demonstrate the love of Christ to these men).  If the truck was empty, then of course, tell these men you can’t help them, but with a pile of bags on the truck you are choosing to withhold something that Christ commands us to give away.

As we pulled back up to the church, the two men pulled up in their truck.  Andy and I greeted them at the door, they were very cordial and asked if they could speak to the head pastor.

There have been a few times where I wonder if we have talked with or entertained angels.  This was one of those times.  The two men were very large men, built well, tattoos across the chest and arms, and if you saw them walking down the road together you might think of crossing to the other side.  But as they talked with us and with the pastor, they were gentle, kind and just wanted to clear up the misunderstanding that they had with the other staff member back at the neighborhood.  Andy and I were impressed and totally enamored at the way Jesus was shining through these two men.  Honestly, I don’t know if they are believers, but at that moment they were being more like Christ than anyone we had seen that day.  I hope that these two men challenged the leadership at this church to think more like Christ.

They did end up walking away with bags, but I don’t think that was the point.  I think the point of all of that was to present the question; What would Jesus do?  I think we all need a dose of humility and remembering our purpose as Christians.  How often do we do this to others – deny them something that Christ calls us to give away, whether that be material possessions, our time, or our love, but we withhold it because they aren’t following our rules and procedures?

What would Jesus do?

He would share.

He would give.

He would love.

And He would do it without asking for anthing back, without asking for us to fit in some box, or to stand in line, or to sign up.

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3 Responses

  1. This is so true. What is the POINT of our ministry? We get awfully hung up on the rules.

    We love you.

    MOM

  2. Yeah, figuring out boundaries and keeping a ministry going seems to be an ever evolving work in progress.
    We know that you will be growing and changing too.
    love,
    Dad.

  3. My vote is angels! very cool story… I know that the blessing of mustard seed ministries caused a family in Florida to remember what Jesus would do… came in a package we weren’t planning on, but all the same— we know we’re on the narrow road and are grateful for your divine appointment in Port Charlotte, Florida! luv you guys : )

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