Michael was homeless.
His weathered face and slumped posture reflected the heavy burdens he was carrying. There was pain in his eyes. He was resting in the shade of a park pavilion.
Michael avoided eye contact with others. He was used to others pretending he wasn’t there. I’m ashamed to say I did not immediately think to talk to him.
Do we ever prejudge people?
I’ve gone witnessing and, whenever someone different from me answers the door, I have my doubts. One is covered in tattoos. Another has numerous piercings. Still another comes to the door smoking marijuana. I think to myself, “They’re probably not interested in what I have to say.” But, in each case, I’m startled by how much they want to talk about Jesus.
That’s also what happened when I reached out to Michael. He began to open up. Michael has struggled with different addictions. He’s currently trying to give up cigarettes. As a Mormon, he knows that if the bishop smells smoke on his clothes, he won’t get a temple recommend. He’s been taught that acceptance by God depends on first being accepted by the gatekeepers of his church. Kicking his habit doesn’t look promising, so he figures he will continue to be rejected by his neighbors, his church, and God.
He’s been taught that acceptance by God depends on first being accepted by the gatekeepers of his church.
I questioned his last assumption.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God doesn’t demand that we clean up our act, fit into a certain mold or gain the approval of others before we can experience his love. In Jesus, we already have it.
At first, Michael insisted he must still do things to receive God’s love. I assured Michael God couldn’t love him more, and God couldn’t love him less because he is already loved the most. Michael fought back the tears. He hugged me and said, “It means so much that you took the time to talk with me. It’s the first time I’ve felt like a real person in years.”
That evening Michael returned to the storage unit where he lives. He got down on his knees and prayed. “God help me believe I am loved just as you promise!” The Spirit was beginning to help him see God’s unconditional love in Jesus.
Have you ever considered how amazing it is that the outcasts of society surrounded Jesus during his earthly ministry? His unconditional love attracted people who didn’t fit the mold. It still does. As you share “God so loved the world” (John 3:16), be prepared for folks who may be different from you to embrace that message and discover hope in him.
It turns out, we’re not all that different.
We are all beggars in need of God’s mercy. Ask God to open your eyes to all the opportunities he sets before you. Then confidently share the message that the love he’s shown you is for all.
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