Though it gives me great pain to confess, I wonder if perhaps I’ve become a “convenient” Christian. Maybe not all the time, but perhaps more often than I care to admit.
Something happened recently, to cause me to question my heart. Do I act on or admit my faith, only when it is convenient? Am I willing to go out of my way, when prompted by the Holy Spirit to step out of my safe little boat? The water is cold, deep and tempestuous. It is reasonably safe here in my tiny raft. It would be inconvenient to step out on the waves.
What prompted this inner questioning and turmoil?
On Sunday, as I hurried to church, my mind on the things I needed to do once there, I noticed a person in deep need and I wanted to do something. I wasn’t sure what to do, I only know that I wanted to help her.
I don’t know for sure if this individual was a man or woman, but I got the sense it was a woman. One thing I did know was that this person was homeless. It was a frosty morning, and she was bundled up in multiple layers. Having come across a sofa someone had left out on the curb with a “Free” sign, the woman was half sitting, half lying on the couch, sound asleep. All her possessions were in the bags that waited patiently in the grocery cart next to her borrowed bed. It crushed me. I felt so sad for her desperate state.
It was only a few blocks from my church, and I was late. I considered going back and giving her my hot coffee that I had just purchased from Starbucks. I imagined sitting next to her and listening. All I had was coffee and my companionship to offer. Was that enough? I even dreamed about inviting her to church, but what would I do with the shopping cart? I know she would never leave it behind. It was all she had. Should I tie it to the back of my car and tow it behind us? Silly thought.
All the way to the church, these scenes and others played out in my mind. But I did not act on any of them. I said a prayer for the woman, but felt ashamed at my lack of compassion. The woman needed love, but it was too inconvenient. I would be late.
I thought about Jesus, would He have driven past? Would the inconvenience even been a consideration to Him? No. I know my savior. He would have stopped and talked with her, offered her warm coffee, a smile – His love. Jesus knew what it was to be homeless. He understood her suffering and hardship. Jesus would not have driven past. She was his neighbor.
This cold tired woman is also my neighbor, but like the religious leaders in Jesus’s parable of the Good Samaritan, I drove past. I did nothing.
“What you do for such as these, you do unto me.” Jesus said that to his disciples. Every time they gave water to the thirsty, food to the hungry, visited the imprisoned and lonely, they were really doing those things for Christ.
In effect, I left Jesus on a couch, on a cold Sunday morning so I could go to church and worship Him. I cringe at this; ashamed. This is NOT who I am. This is NOT who God called me to be. He called me to be like Jesus.
I am ashamed to confess this personal lack of compassion. I have confessed it to my Lord, and I am truly sorry and wish I could turn back time. But I can’t. The woman is no longer on that couch. Days have passed, yet this question of convenient Christianity still haunts me. I know I am forgiven. My Lord still loves me. Yet I am humbled by the lack of love I demonstrated that morning.
As I said, I can’t go back. I can only go forward and learn from this moment and pray that God will use it to work a change in my heart. To make my heart more like Jesus’ heart, so that the next time an opportunity to share love with another human being presents itself, I will not walk away no matter how inconvenient. My prayer is that I will do the inconvenient thing and love my neighbor.
After all, the cross was inconvenient. Wasn’t it?
I don’t write this to make anyone feel guilty or ashamed. I only write to share my personal journey as God changes and forms me to be more like Christ. When you really study Jesus, who wouldn’t want to be like Him? Loving, compassionate, gentle, strong, patient, fearless, joyful, gracious, merciful, holy…the list goes on.
Lord, use these lessons in my journey to make me more like you. Fill me, shape me, mold me – I am yours. And I am so grateful you love me and nothing can separate me from your love. I am so grateful that You forgive me. I want to be like You. Help me cooperate with You and Your Spirit each day – even when it may be inconvenient. AMEN