There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ
Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom 8:1
His name is Ali Mohammed, a janitor at a nearby older apartment complex. For years we have exchanged pleasantries, concerns and conversations, which always seem to be part of our brief times together. With a forlorn and painful voice, Ali recently blurted out to me “my kidneys are failing. I need dialysis and have no one to care for me.” So neighbors have gathered (yes, we have neighbors in NYC--lots of them) and in our efforts to help, we discovered he had a son in Oklahoma, who we contacted and now are thankful to learn is taking his father into his home.
With his health failing and a job he is no longer capable of managing, Ali’s hope was renewed by simple acts of love and concern. It is our joy in Christ to serve and love those in need. However, so often we pass by the less fortunate and pay no attention to those outside our cultural comfort zone--the immigrant who needs to see the face of Jesus in our loving concern, the prisoner without a friend in the world, the widow with no support, the recovering addict without a meeting. I think of the old blues song which speaks of despair as feeling “like a motherless child in the morning.”
Our faith in God, our desire to love Jesus, and the hope for those who are suffering should be the banner of our life. And as we live our love we become an attraction to the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our prayer life undergirds our desire to love and serve as we seek God, for whom our soul longs. Sometimes it happens in your neighborhood, sometimes in your place of worship or work place. We need not look far in order to see an opportunity to love, serve, and restore those less fortunate. Perhaps it is caring for a young person who has been abandoned or abused, or visiting a lonely retired person in nursing home. We become the hands of Christ to those in need.
On Monday evenings, I host a group of 10 to 12 young men for a simple meal. We discuss Scripture, enjoy fellowship, and share about our lives, lost loves and the sorrows they all have endured too early in life. As we all grow together, their desire is to encourage other “travelers on the journey” who have made mistakes or have been morally and spiritual broken by bad choices or addictions. As one fine young man put it, “I was so lonely, so afraid, so hurt, that in my efforts to mask the feelings of my depression, I kept doing the same things over and over—even though those habits led me into the downward spiral in the first place. Somehow I thought more booze, sex, or drugs would help me escape the painful effects that actually come from booze, sex, and drugs. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that was how I lived.” (Einstein put it this way: “No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that caused the same problem in the first place.”) Our friend went on to say that it was through honest friendships, AA, and our fellowship in Christ where he could share his sorrow and regrets and then turn the corner to embrace sanity and faith.
I could give you chapter and verse of people who did not make it to this kind of meeting to share their needs and hopes--a business guy who took his life, a mother who killed herself because she felt she could not talk to anyone, a young man who stepped in front of a subway because he lost touch with reality. All of us can make a difference ... we need to be available and be reminded that we can be a part of the restoration story of people’s lives. Just in case you might have forgotten from a very recent celebration....“He has risen. He has risen indeed!”
Praying for mercy in these troubling times of our world.