He said “Go.” I said “No.”
A few years ago something profound and mysterious happened to me that has forever changed my convictions about the Great Commission.
While in college, I was “gym rat”—the kind of guy that would make any excuse to be a gym playing basketball every day. One time I was running late getting to a game, and I needed to stop and put .50 of gas in my truck. (Yes, I’m old enough that .50 in gas could actually get me to the gym and back.)
As I walked into the station to drop my two quarters on the counter, a guy walked up to me and shook my hand. It caught me by surprise…. I turned and saw a young man who looked like a character right out of Oliver Twist. He was filthy, wearing clothes that I’m sure he hadn’t changed in a month. He was had on a pair of gloves, but the fingers were worn to the knuckles. He was wearing a coat in spite of the 80-degree temperature, and he smelled, man he smelled!
As he started to speak, it was clear that he also had some kind of mental disability. “Hi sir,” he stuttered. “I’m trying to get to California. Can you help me find the way?” I lived in Colorado, so my directions weren’t going to be much help. I hesitated, not quite sure what to say when he asked if I wanted to see what he owned.
He picked up an old suitcase, the kind used in the 1960’s, boxy with no wheels and a hard case in worn out shades of yellow and dirt. By now I was getting a little irritated because the game was starting without me. But I indulged the guy…. He opened the case, inside was an empty Snickers wrapper and another pair of trashed gloves. That was it.
But I didn’t have time for him. I quickly brushed him off, jumped in the truck and boogied onto the highway toward the gym. But then something happened. I made it a quarter mile down the interstate when the Holy Spirit hit me like a brick flying through the windshield. It was as if He said, “Are you kidding me? I just brought my child across your path so that he could see My love through you, and you walked away.”
I immediately jumped off the next exit and drove back to the station, maybe three minutes tops. I pulled into the station and looked all over for this guy, but no one had seen him. I drove around the area up and down the highway looking for him. He was nowhere to be found.
What had I done, or more importantly, what had I failed to do? I didn’t have much, but I had a shower, I some clean clothes and I had a box of frozen fish sticks in the freezer—obscene wealth compared to this guy. But I walked away, and now he was gone.
Yep, the least of these…. Way to go, Steve. Good job.
This event changed my life. God dramatically showed me how much the least and lost mean to him, and therefore they needed to matter to me. It was as if Jesus were saying to me, “What I told you to do is not a suggestion—it is a lifestyle. I love you deeply. Show that love to others.”
When we look at the Scriptures, the last two comments Jesus made to his followers had to do with reaching the unreached. In Matthew, He gives us the words known as the Great Commission. And in Acts he tells us that through the power of the Holy Spirit we would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world.
Think about it. The last two bits of instruction he gave on this planet had to do with reaching the unreached. That’s how important they are to Him. That’s how important they should be to us.
I wonder if someday I’ll see this young man in heaven. I’m hopeful that he was an angel used to teach me a lesson. Either way, I want to be ready when God gives me these opportunities.
Are we ready? Are we willing? May God make us so.