I spent the past couple of days shooting video footage for an upcoming promotional video for Come&Live! A huge THANK YOU to our friend Andy Reale. He is a trooper. We spent an entire day on the streets of Nashville with one objective: talk to people, get them to repeat a few key phrases after me, and hopefully encourage them. I can't even recall how many people we must have stopped and talked with, but it was a great time. God provided a beautifully epic day here, 68 degrees and clear blue skies.
It has been quite some time since I randomly approached people on the street. I was very accustomed to doing this all through-out my college years. It's been even longer, or actually never, that I had a camera crew in tow. I wasn't sure what the response to an on-the-fly camera interview would be. What we found is that the vast majority of individuals were willing to give of their time. The only exception being business people. Interesting how few business-types were willing to give us even a minute of their time. Understandable that they're the responsible ones who are on a schedule.
Homeless people, on the other hand, proved to be the most responsive and some of my favorite interviews. This reminded me of several passages in scripture.
Psalm 74: 21 - "Let the poor and needy praise Your name"
Psalm 140: 12 - "We know that the Lord secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy"
Deuteronomy 15: 11 - "For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, "You should open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and the poor..."
Luke 4: 18 - "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because he has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor."
Matthew 5: 1-3 - And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Our time on the streets reminded me mostly of what I believe to be the greatest promise/warning in all of scripture:
Matthew 25: 37-40 - “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ Matthew 25: 45 & 46 - Then He will answer them, saying "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it unto Me. And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
I stumbled upon a beautiful prayer by Mother Teresa at the National Prayer Breakfast back in 1994. You should really take the time to read all of it. You can find it here. Below are several excerpts that really impacted me:
And as if that were not enough, as if it were not enough that God the Son should become one of us and bring peace and joy while still in the womb of Mary, Jesus also died on the Cross to show that greater love. He died for you and for me, and for the leper and for that man dying of hunger and that naked person lying in the street, no only of Calcutta, but of Africa, and everywhere. Our Sisters serve these poor people in 105 countries throughout the world. Jesus insisted that we love one another as He loves each one of us. Jesus gave His life to love us and He tells us that we also have to give whatever it takes to do good to one another. And in the Gospel Jesus says very clearly: "Love as I have loved you."
Jesus died on the Cross because that is what it took for Him to do good to us - to save us from our selfishness in sin. He gave up everything to do the Father's will - to show us that we too must be willing to give up everything to do God's will - to love one another as He loves each of us. If we are not willing to give whatever it takes to do good to one another, sin is still in us. That is why we too must give to each other until it hurts.
It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have to love my neighbor. St. John says that you are a liar if you say you love God and you don't love your neighbor. How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? And so it is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is not true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.
It hurt Jesus to love us. We have been created in His image for greater things, to love and to be loved. We must "put on Christ" as Scripture tells us. And so, we have been created to love as He loves us. Jesus makes Himself the hungry one, the naked one, the homeless one, the unwanted one, and He says, "You did it to Me." On the last day He will say to those on His right, "whatever you did to the least of these, you did to Me, and He will also say to those on His left, whatever you neglected to do for the least of these, you neglected to do it for Me."
When He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said, "I thirst." Jesus is thirsting for our love, and this is the thirst of everyone, poor and rich alike. We all thirst for the love of others, that they go out of their way to avoid harming us and to do good to us. This is the meaning of true love, to give until it hurts.
Jesus, would you teach us to love our neighbors, especially those who don't seem so lovable, the way that you have chosen to love us? Teach us to see you in others, especially those who don't have the time, the means, or the interest, to make themselves out to be all that attractive. Teach us to recognize our brothers and sisters everywhere we go - in church, at school, when we are shopping at the grocery store, but especially in those places like the streets, where we are least likely to gain anything in the material from them. Teach us to do unto the least of our brothers and sisters as though we were doing it unto You.
On a somewhat unrelated, and mostly self-promoting note, Come&Live! has recently launched a Myspace page and has a group on Facebook. Join me on either (or both).