"For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Matthew 25:42-44
Returning from a retreat recently, I sat next to an Afghanistan national on the plane. Smiling broadly as he snapped pictures of the take-off, he was celebrating. I asked him if it was his birthday. “Yes, my new birthday. Seven years ago I came to America and I just became an American citizen!” Abdul “K” worked for years as a translator for the U.S. military. His family joined him here recently and he is employed as a carpet layer.
“This is a most wonderful country,” he exclaimed. “I did not believe such a place could exist.” Further conversation revealed his friendship with an American G.I. who introduced him to Jesus. Coming to the States, Abdul began his search to find Jesus. I inquired, “What did you find?”
His deep satisfying sigh hinted at a spiritual journey. Abdul said, “I go to a church that has a cross, any church with a cross – that is the church I want to attend.” Clearly a neophyte but he loved the message. He then continued, “The cross means I can change, I can be forgiven, I can have life. My family can have life. But most of all it means I am loved!”
A woman sitting directly behind us leaned forward and blurted out, “That was beautiful! Maybe we should go to your church.” There is something strongly mystical and attractive about new life in Christ. It gives a certain joy that seems other-worldly--for many unfamiliar and strange, a mystery revealed in faith.
As I observe our current American culture, I discern a deep sorrow that penetrates our country. We should be shocked that last year more than 15,000 people were murdered in the USA and more than 55,500 died of drug overdoses. That totals more than all the American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War. With the terror of our inner-cities (think Chicago, Baltimore), and death and murder rates at an all-time high, perhaps we should all think about how we could “up our game” with the Lord....through prayer, involvement with the poor, and looking for opportunities to share the Good News. It is conversion of the heart that is ultimately needed.
Reflecting on the love of Jesus in “thought, word and deed” is a vital piece of our national renewal. If we really take our pulse about the “state of the union,” we see a deeply divided political arena. The church is hunkering down, being either isolated or insulated, or not reaching outward with the excitement of the gospel which was offered to Abdul. Sadly, some churches are either going far left or far right, ultimately neither of which will lead folks to the “way, the truth, and the life.”
Perhaps the household of God needs to take stock of itself. C.S. Lewis often spoke about the need to embrace a “long repentance.” Through grace, let us pick up the banner of Christ, as our new citizen Abdul has so gladly embraced; and as I also did 45 years ago...receiving forgiveness and God’s love that led me to a new life of hope, joy, and purpose.
In Christ’s Service,