Love Your Neighbor

fisherman at sunset (24545)
A man fishing alone.

Last Sunday, one of the passages of Scripture we studied was Genesis 18. Key to Genesis 18 is Abraham’s hospitality. Abraham goes above and beyond to provide chow and comfort to three strangers he spies hanging out in the trees. In the second half of the chapter, Abraham again shows great hospitality by interceding on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah in the face of the Lord, to the point God responds, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.”

The second section of Scripture we studied was Acts 19: 1-20. Here we see Paul arrive in Ephesus and meet 12 disciples of John, who have been baptized into repentance, but not in the name of the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit. Paul corrects this deficiency in their understanding and a mini Pentecost-like moment happens. Paul then speaks in the synagogue for three months, before the opposition against him and Christianity grows, at which point Paul goes to the Gentiles and teaches for another two years, so the Gospel reaches all the residents of Asia.

We see in both Paul and Abraham great care for strangers. Their behavior echoes the words of Jesus, in response to the scribes in Mark 12: 28-34, where He says, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself…”. Clearly God cares how we treat others, those we know and those we just met. We should not avoid those in need, but instead truly provide for their care.

With this in mind, I implored the folks of Catalyst last Sunday to seek opportunities to put this practice in place. I prayed as we closed that we would be neighborly and seek opportunities to show hospitality towards others for the glory of Jesus. I left Sunday feeling the lesson was a good one and it had been impactful.

Fast forward twenty four hours. While driving to Chicago Monday morning for a North American Mission Board Send Event, I was still reflecting on this and praying God would use me and that I would be the man for the moment when given the chance. I must have spent 2-3 hours reflecting on this Monday morning and praying for more opportunities. I was having a good trip communing with God.

Just before Wisconsin turns into Illinois, I began getting hungry. I pulled into a gas station/Taco Bell combo just before the border and fueled up and grabbed a burrito. Instead of eating the burrito while driving, I decided to sit in the parking lot and eat. The burrito I ordered was a Grilled Stuffed, but I received a Supreme Burrito. I decided to just eat the burrito without complaining and thought I was doing good, in response to Sundays lesson.

Out of nowhere, some dude wrapped his knuckles on my drivers side window, likely after seeing my magnetic Catalyst Baptist Church decals. I looked at him and then looked at my boot knife in the event he decided to get froggy. I did not have the keys in the ignition to roll the window down, so I made a decision based on the appearance of the dude that I would open the door and speak to him face to face.

This man began telling me your typical sob story for people that regularly ask for handouts. Within about thirty seconds of hearing his story I looked at him and said, “I hear you. Wait one second.” In other words, I was informing him I did not need to hear the entirety of the story. The man was only asking for six dollars to help him and his wife, who had just had surgery, gain access to a room for the night.

I had eight ones and one ten in my wallet and I knew it. I considered counting out six ones, but I decided it would be more Abraham-like if I gave him the ten. I peeled out my ten and handed it to him and he walked off and he and his wife were gone immediately. I barely had time to blink before they were gone. They were gone so quick it caught me by surprise. It was almost as if he had been an angel answering my prayers and I failed the opportunity to host.

It was at this point I realized how short of Abraham I fell. Abraham asked Sarah to prepare three seahs of flour, which is more than any three people could eat. Abraham gave the strangers water to clean and refresh themselves from their travels. Abraham killed a young calf and then stood by and served the three instead of eating with them. Abraham went above and beyond to serve and be a neighbor to strangers.

I realized about thirty seconds after the dude walked off that instead of interceding on he and his wife’s behalf to the best of my ability, I dismissively gave him four extra dollars, which did not truly alleviate his needs. I did not go above and beyond! I thought to myself of the ancient Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for life.” I gave him a fish.

I began kicking myself because instead of just handing the fellow ten bucks, I should have said, “Can I pray with you and your wife?” Then if he agreed, I could pray for the couple and intercede on their behalf before the throne of God like Abraham, and instead of just giving him four extra bucks, I could have introduced them to the King!

I realized God answered my prayer and I failed when put to the test, again. I sat their finishing my burrito and sulking, which if you remember, only moments before I had been congratulating myself for being so generous by not returning it for the right order. While patting myself on the back, a real opportunity arrived, and I failed catastrophically.

The rest of my drive I reflected on this failure. That evening, after the conference wrapped up for the day, I continued reflecting on my short comings. My whole day and night was rotten because God answered my prayer and I blew it. On my return drive last night I realized, “God is not done working on me and training me for righteousness.” I still have lots of room to grow and go.

God answers prayer, are you prepared to do your part?