Today on a morning walk in search of Dunkin Donuts coffee I passed a woman who was weeping as she walked down the street. My heart went out to her and I wondered what her pain might be. Did she lose a loved one? A relationship? Did she lose her job? Perhaps she or someone she loves had received a devastating diagnosis. Or maybe she felt hopeless and alone. A mystery women in pain amongst ten million people all with their own problems. I will never know the cause of her tears. But God does.
Just minutes later I noticed a bedraggled old man wedged into the corner of an office building. He held a crudely written sign begging for money as vacant eyes scanned the throngs stepping over him. I wondered what had gotten him to this place. I have to tell you that the morning walk was a bit sobering today. Maybe that is why New Yorkers mind their own business. There is so much pain and so many hurting people in this city. You feel helpless in many ways.
I thought about how self-centered and self-absorbed I can become. How I can judge others who are downtrodden or difficult. A song called “The Face of Christ” by Chris Rice came to mind for this week’s iPod Devotional.
How did I find myself in a better place
I can’t look down on the frown on the other guy’s face
‘Cause when I stoop down low, look him square in the eye
I get a funny feeling, I just might be dealing
With the face of Christ
Chris Rice talks about how much of our lot in life is completely out of our control.
See you had no choice which day you would be born
Or the color of your skin, or what planet you’d be on
Would your mind be strong, would your eyes be blue or brown
Whether daddy would be rich, or if momma stuck around at all
If I get a little too full of myself I have a surefire cure. I look in the mirror. What I see there is a man who is capable of nearly everything I get angry about with others. I see a man who has made mistakes that could have led me to a very bad place. Somehow God’s grace has preserved me and I am humbled again that God is patient as I work this out. Regular readers know of my admiration for the group Casting Crowns. The song “Who Am I” comes to mind in this context.
Who am I?
That the Lord of all the earth,
Would care to know my name,
Would care to feel my hurt.
Take a moment to meditate on that. Then take a moment to meditate on a later verse.
Who am I?
That the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again.
That God sees my sin and looks on me with love is mind boggling. How can I accept that love and not at least attempt to offer it to others? Because there is not a (Christian cussing warning) dang thing that I have done to deserve mercy like that. Too often I fear that I judge and have judged people who acted poorly because of incredible pain and difficulty in their daily life. The thought that I might add to the song is who am I that I should not extend the grace to others that I have received in spite of who I am? This is my favorite bridge of the lyric.
Not because of who I am,
But because of what you’ve done.
Not because of what I’ve done,
But because of who you are.
That is the message I hope to spend my remaining days proclaiming. I have hope and freedom and joy. Not because of who I am or what I have done. My hope, freedom and joy are because of Christ. Because of what He did for me. Christ has given me a new identity. I am given His righteousness and I am freed from condemnation, guilt and shame. I wish I would have had the courage to share that with those two hurting souls today.
John wrote about how God's love should compel us to action.
If someone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need but shows no compassion—how can God’s love be in that person? (1 John 3, NLT)
I used to get a good batch of self-condemnation worked up over verses like that. But I am realizing the power source for that challenge and John writes about it in the next chapter.
We love each other because he loved us first. (1 John 4, NLT)
That is it. We need to accept and trust that love. Living out of that truth gives us the power to love others.
I pray that I will not look down on struggling people and dismiss them for making bad decisions. I pray that I will believe the old saying that “there but for the grace of God go I”. I pray that I will love because I have first been loved. And I pray that I will see the face of Christ.