A few months ago I was talking to an acquaintance who owns several rental properties in town. He mentioned to me that one of his homes was open and that he was fielding phone calls from those interested in renting his property. I asked him how it was going and if he had received many calls. His response was something like this:
“Yes, I have had lots of calls. However many of them are from people who hardly speak English… so I really only have a few potential clients.”
As I reflected on that response during the hours following that conversation, I felt my heart shouting…what about that refugee who can’t speak great English? What about the immigrant? What about the Native American or foreigner or alien??? What about them! Didn’t God identify with these people? Didn’t Jesus in His incarnation live among the poor and marginalized? Wasn’t it Jesus who said it’s My face you see in the poor, widowed and immigrant (Matt. 25:40)? Where have we gone so wrong?
Why had this acquaintance of mine so quickly disregarded the needs of the vulnerable by the simple sound of their voice?
Jesus in the face of the poor: Would you pass the test?
There is an old Jesuit saying that says:
See Jesus, standing in the lowly places.
We don’t see Jesus pointing at the lowly places saying to us, “Would you go over there to the lowly places.” No, Jesus stands in the lowly places with the “lowly” people. The places of humility, where the poor and the voiceless stand. Where the powerless, marginalized, demonized and suffering stand. It’s Jesus who stands with those who have been disposed of and thrown away. Throughout the Bible it is Jesus who lives, loves and listens to the broken, forgotten and outcastes.
It’s Jesus who says: ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
How often we have allowed ourselves to be confused and deceived. Yes, Jesus is in the clean and healthy, organized and polished. Yes, we can find Him in the peaceful, planned and logical, but is that it? Is He only found in those situations among those people? NO! He is also among the chaotic, wrecked, confused and uncomfortable situations. His face is seen among the forgotten, tattered, intoxicated and insulted. He’s there, we just often miss Him.
It seems backward that in so many ways our society and individual tendency is to gravitate away from those who may need our help and love the most.
Jesus is there standing in the lowly places.
Would you pass the test?
Proverbs 14:31 says:
“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.”
How are you doing in this area? Is your tendency to gravitate towards or away from the vulnerable?
- Does your calendar reflect a desire to care for those in need?
- How about your inner thoughts? At the grocery, post office and park how do you react to their presence?
- What about your generosity? Are the poor included?
- Does your conversation respect and honor the downtrodden?
- How is your life an encouragement to the forgotten? A boost for those relegated to the sidelines?
- Are you quick to judge others by the thickness of their accent or the slang of their speech?
I know we are all challenged to DO more. We have books, sermons, billboards, and plenty of slogans that push us towards that. If that concept is fatiguing to you, you aren’t alone. With that said, let’s start afresh. Let’s start with a heart in the right place. When your attitude towards the poor changes your actions will follow.
Let’s begin by asking God to change our heart towards the poor and vulnerable. It’s easy to see their perceived deficiencies, but what about their strengths? What about their capabilities? How might their feelings and struggles be like ours? What joys do they hope for? What character is God forming in them? What might God be trying to tell you through their plight?
Put yourself out there just once. Be willing to take an open mind and see what God teaches you. Give a smile and see what happens. Lend a listening ear and see what you learn. Stand for a moment in the lowly places and see how your attitude changes. Take an open heart and maybe, just maybe, you will see Christ’s face in a way you’ve never recognized it before. Will you do that with me?
Start now…. and make today a day you pass the test.Image courtesy of Kevin Case / Flickr.com