Laura (pseudonym) was a beloved kindergarten teacher at my school. She had a quiet, confident demeanor and she taught with heart. One colleague said of her, “If you spit in Laura’s face, she would still smile at you.” Everyone loved Laura, including me. Then one day I discovered what Laura and her husband did every Saturday night. At 11pm they would drive to a particular underpass off the expressway and offer coffee, conversation, and compassion to the homeless and the prostitutes. They would come home around 4AM saddened by the stories they heard, but energized. Laura said it was her favorite time of the week.
They were once interviewed about their work with the downtrodden. The interviewer seemed intent on securing a statement of judgement concerning the life choices of those whom they served. All Laura said in response was, “Only God can judge. MY job is to love.” And love, she did.
In these days of acrimonious division, I think of Laura’s quiet faith played out under an expressway or surrounded by a hoard of 5-year olds with attention spans no longer than a minute.
This is a time for those of us who claim to follow Jesus to be more like Laura, and to heed the words from the book of James – to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. We should remember what Jesus said about judging others and notice the log in our own eye, before we denounce the speck in our brother’s eye.
Perhaps you’ve heard the story of Ghandi…
It is reported that Ghandi was interested in learning more about the life and death of Jesus whom he greatly admired. He tried to attend a Christian church in Calcutta, but was turned away at the door, because his status was offensive. Ghandi said later, “If it weren’t for Christians, I’d be a Christian.”
Today as I jogged though my neighborhood, I noticed the political signs that had sprouted since my last run, some two to a lawn. I felt a twinge of judgement (well, more than a twinge… at the sight of those in the opposite corner as my own.) But then I noticed a different kind of sign, one smaller than the rest, hanging from a maple tree. I had to stop to read it. It cited a verse from the Old Testament, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
May that be the sign of these times – Christians acting like the Lord they serve, seeking out the work to be done under expressways, in food pantries, on our knees. To call out evil, to fight injustice, but to be quick to listen.
With humility. And a bit of log hunting.