Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Very Thing I Was (not) Eager To Do

I once threw change at a homeless man in Cincinnati to avoid talking to him any longer.

I threw it, it went everywhere, and I turned and left him to pick up the pieces of my generosity.  It wasn't 24 hours later that I was pulling out my wallet to pay a big tip to a horse-and-buggy driver to show off in front of my friends.  I was self-centered, fearful of those that were not like me (and who I thought were lesser than me), and ignorant.

And perhaps it should be noted that I was attending the National Missionary Convention.

At twenty, I was on the fast track to becoming one of those hot shot ministers that could preach to large crowds and do fantastic things.  I had helped write and design the curriculum for the NMC's youth program for that year, and would be helping teach it throughout the weekend.  I was there to be an expert.

And yet I knew nothing.


My first year in ministry and I am surrounded by a new reality.  In my first month I am going to a different type of missions gathering.  A group of 10 of us, half of them teenagers, are going to talk with Islamic refugees.  We are not going to preach, nor are we going to accomplish some great work.  We are simply driving five hours from home to spend the day having conversations in English, helping them get accustomed to their new life in the United States.

I talk to an elderly man as we walk through the park.  He is weathered from horrors that my life cannot comprehend.  He asks about my family, and why I do not yet have children at the age of 23.  I balk and try to explain the intricacy of being stable before having children to a man who was uprooted and moved across the world just a year before.

He asks about my faith, and I share that it is in Jesus the Messiah.  He came to bring good news.  I asked about his faith.  He shares that when he was young they would have stoned any man found out to be a follower of Jesus the Messiah; and those were the good old days.

As we leave for the return home.  This man, whose pride is killing my brothers, embraces me in a hug--a deep sign of respect.

On the ride home I realize:

The one thing I know is that I know nothing.


Now a four year ministry veteran.  I know less than I did before, but yet I know more.  On trips to serve or listen or talk I have learned that these places, these people are crucial.  They belong to God.  I am struck now, this very morning, as I read again through Paul's letter to the Galatians, about a simple agreement between Paul and the other leaders of the church:

"All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do."

Let me be likewise eager, O God and Father of this homeless soul.


  1. nice...what a great approach too...when the shooting happened in Virginia Tech I drove down just to be with the kids and listen to them and you know there were those there trying to shove jesus down their throats and it just was not working they just needed someone

  2. I love this. Just to take in, to learn. To listen to others. And really what's knowledge in the face of love?

  3. wow. this is gospel. to remember the poor... and to remember we know nothing. it reminds me of the penitent sinner beating his chest in the temple... you have a beautiful servant heart, matt. i learn, here.

  4. Thank you all. Your support means so much.

    1. And now at a ripe old age ~ at least old enough to drive the church van ~ you may realize how much more you have to learn, but truly you are way ahead of many, much older Christians, including many church leaders (even including a much older Jacob, our Jewish forefather). I love your great desire to educate yourself, but even more I love how willing you are to be practically educated in the ways you have mentioned!! Not long ago, I had my two daughters and a certain 80+ year old in my car one cold winter day. We passed a beggar standing between the road and the parking lot and wanted to give him money. I couldn't get any out fast enough, so pulled out and turned to go back. This started a great discussion/argument between my oldest and the elder in the car. The elder was convinced this man could work and didn't need our money. It was only going to be wasted on alcohol and/or drugs. My oldest argued that she would much rather err, today especially (a cold blustery day), on the side of potentially wasting money than miss an opportunity to give someone truly in need. As we came back around, rolled down my window to give him all the money we had on us, the man began to walk/ half crawl to our car to get it. It was heartbreaking to see him barely able to move. He had a coat so thin and full of holes and thread bare gloves with holes. As the girls tried to figure out how we could get him a coat, I was never so proud of these two young daughters of mine. The elder in the car clamped mouth shut as I'm sure realization hit that sometimes we have to "show" Jesus, not just give mere words!! I'm so glad that you are/have been their youth minister, and thank you for your and Kylie's part in helping to mold them!! :-)