Unthinkable! It is a word that so perfectly describes the way that Jesus lived his life. He was a holy and upright man, an authoritative teacher, and a miracle worker; yet he chose to surround himself with the lowest of the low, with the dirty, sick and abhorrent. He chose to be a man who truly saw people, a man who took the time to be with people, he chose to be a man who loved the invisible.
I think that this is a trait often lost in the United States—even among Christians. We are all so busy. We all have so much to do and so little time. We choose checking tasks off our list over spending time with people.
Two years ago my brother went on a mission trip with our church to West Africa. A missionary that we had been sponsoring invited us to come over and help build a bush-church. Several people decided to go. The trip went well.
I remember going to pick up my brother from the air port. My parents and I were excited to see him. He was the first one in our family to ever go on an international mission trip and we were looking forward to hearing all about how it had gone. My brother shared his experience with us in tired excitement. As we listened I was amazed at all God had done—they had been there for such a brief time, but the impact would be lasting. As I Listened one story in particular stood out. I remember my brother telling it like this:
‘One of the days we decided to go and hang out with the Talibe boys. They are a group of boys who have been sent to the city to be educated by Muslim Imams. They do receive an education, but they also spend several hours a day begging for alms on behalf of the local Mosque.’ He continued, ‘They are known for the large tin cans that they carry around. It is where anything that they collect goes. From money to food, it all goes in the can. They are not allowed to eat anything that they receive unless it has been damaged.’ ‘So,’ he told us, ‘we decided to damage the oranges we were passing out by pushing our thumbs through the peel. When we began to pass out the oranges the boys swarmed. They were grabbing and asking and things got crazy. Unfortunately we were not able to “damage” all of the oranges.’ It was pretty interesting’ he said, ‘you would notice the boys who got a damaged orange eating and the boys who got an undamaged orange standing proudly with their orange in their bucket. Then I saw him,’ He said, ‘one of the younger boys had not received an orange. He was looking very gloomy. I wasn’t sure what I could give him. But then I had an idea. I took out my Polaroid camera and snapped a shot of him. When the photo printed out I showed him that he needed to wave it in the air in order for it to develop. It was time for us to go so I began to walk away. He looked at me like I was crazy—he had no idea why he was waving this funny piece of white paper. But as we walked away, the picture began to form, and when I looked back I saw his eyes get huge and a giant smile erupted on his face. When he saw me look back he raised his hands above his head in victory.”
This story was so powerful to me because it reveals just how impactful it can be to stop and take the time to really see someone. Imagine how it felt for that boy to receive this gift, no strings attached. He went from being orange-less to having a gift that no one else had. My brother could have looked at the boy, seen that he had no orange and walked away. But, he didn’t. He chose to stop, and spend time instead. It is important. Taking the time to be with people is critical to living the Christian life. Jesus saw the invisible, stopped, and spent time. So should we. It ought not be unthinkable…