In Matthew 25 verse 40, Jesus states, "...I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Could it be then that we can have face to face encounters with Christ on the street, in prisons, at shelters, in food lines, etc.? If Matthew 25 is true, and I believe it is, then what does that say about me when I don't have time to acknowledge one of my brothers on the street. What does that say about churches who don't have any type of consistent and intentional ministry to the poor, but yet "have church" Sunday after Sunday?
Yesterday, I took 4 men from Pittsburgh up to the Uptown neighborhood to engage people in conversation on and around Wilson Avenue. We split up, and we had been on the street nearly and hour, before I met Tony aka Papa T. I was walking by the dollar store that he was sitting in front of when I heard him say something about 63rd and Cottage (the intersection that I live near). I stopped and asked him if he was from that neighborhood. He then explained to me that he had grown up in that neighborhood. He had been drinking, so not everything that he said made a lot of sense. However, as the conversation went on I asked him what he believed about Jesus. I told him that in the last few weeks I had talked with people who think that Jesus was a good man, a prophet, and/or a good teacher - but not the son of God, and not God in the flesh. As soon as I finished my question, Tony's eyes got big and he got very animated. He passionately stated that Jesus is Lord, God's Son, creator of the heavens and earth. He then looked me in the eye and told me that it doesn't mean anything for me to live off of 63rd and Cottage if I am not there to be involved in and serve the community, and if I'm not there because of the Lord. He continued, saying that if I truly believe in Jesus that I have nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be ashamed of at all. I told him that I worked with young men from the neighborhood, and I asked him if he had any advice for me. He once again looked me straight in the eye, and told me passionately to tell them about the Lord.
My conversation with Tony really messed me up. I told him that it was nice to meet him and that I hoped to see him again. I walked back to the van challenged, and encouraged, and in awe. I am convinced that God spoke to me yesterday as I sat there outside of the dollar store. Could it be that I had a face to face encounter with Jesus Christ right there on Sheridan (Matthew 25)? Who needed to be ministered to yesterday...me or Tony?
I want Jesus and the gospel to continue to mess me up in this way.