29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31
I have been gone a lot recently. I put together and facilitated a retreat for our students at the church, I traveled to and from Texas for a conference, then I facilitated some different aspects of another retreat for a different group of students out at Webster Conference Center. If you were to walk into my office, you would see that my desk is piled up with stuff; much more so than normal if you’ve been in my office before. Needless to say, partially because of being gone, I have a long list of stuff to do; stuff that continues to just piled up.
When I came into the office today, the plan was to close the door, hit the DND (do not disturb) button on the phone, and write an article so Eva, our secretary, could get the bulletin printed, and then get on with my long list of “to do’s” that seemed so important. Per usual, things didn’t go as planned. When I walked into my office, I forgot to shut the door and I remembered I needed to call dig safe, a call I knew would take forever. As I was on the phone with dig safe I heard Eva talking with Joe about someone coming in needing assistance. The first thought that ran through my head was “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!” As I sat on the phone I could hear Joe talking with someone in the MAC. I cringed when I heard him say “The person you need to talk with is on the phone, but he can help you when he is off the phone.” Again, I thought: “I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!” Remember, I have a list, I have a plan, talking with and helping someone doesn’t fit into that plan. The call continued and Joe continued to talk with the lady. I was hopeful he would take care of it and I wouldn’t have to deal with it.
As the call ended, I came to terms with the fact that I was going to have to spend some of my precious time helping someone out. I determined I would make it quick. I wouldn’t pry into their life. I would just get the general story, give them what they wanted and move on. In my mind I was sure they were a scammer anyway.
After they had filled out the proper paperwork, I returned to my office to read through it and move on as quickly as possible. Yet, as I was reading the answers to the questions about church background and relationship with God, I had to stop. My heart broke and my “to do’s” no longer seemed important. If I were to make an analogy, scammer or not, they were hemorrhaging from an artery while everyone was just standing around watching, no one was helping.
The immediate need was physical, something I could easily fulfill. But the greater need was to be loved, valued, listened to, and cared for. That was going to take time, something I didn’t have in surplus. But God got my attention. He reminded me why I was at the church in the first place. He reminded me of what I was called to, not only as a pastor, but more specifically as a follower of Christ, and it had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with my “to do” list.
I took the time, I listened, and I prayed over them. The thing that once appeared as another task on an endless list I didn’t have time for, was the thing I needed to come back to the reality of who I am in Christ. People matter. They are Christ’s treasure. We are called to love them where they are, for who they are. There is no distinction in the eyes of Christ between you and me, regardless of how I look, where I came from, my net worth, or how I smell. He loves each of us, and we are called to do the same.
It has been my prayer for some time that I would see people as He sees them, and consequently, love them as He loves them. Anyone can be a good neighbor. Being Jesus to someone is a calling we all, as Christians, must embrace. It may take time, it may even cost monetarily, but how we treat others is a reflection on our relationship with Christ and who He is to the community around us.