“As We would Like to be Treated”
Downtown Los Angeles. Business professionals, highrise office buildings, hustle and bustle surrounded me as I walked toward my destination. A few yards ahead, I watched a well-dressed woman pass a homeless man who sat on the sidewalk, asking for help. “Good morning!” her cheerful voice rang out as she looked directly at him, smiled, and kept walking. While she didn’t give him what he asked for–money–she did acknowledge him rather than treating him as if he were invisible.
The respect and dignity of her response spoke volumes to me. And yet Jesus also tells us that if someone is in need and we tell them “be warm and filled” but do nothing practical to help, what good is that? “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” How often have we heard that phrase? How often have we acted on it?
The other day I was in Burger King’s drive-through lane. Out of the corner of my eye I saw an unkempt man walking toward the car. From about 15 feet away, he asked, “Would you buy me the cheapest hamburger they have? I’m starving.”
From the safety of my car, I responded. “Sure, I can do that. Do you want fries?”
“Yeah. I really appreciate it.”
“I’m happy to do it. God loves you!”
He smiled and pointed his index finger at me. “Jesus loves you. The Holy Spirit loves you.”
I grinned and told him I’d meet him at the end of the drive-through, then ordered for both of us. After paying, I handed him the food and coke, and a packet of protein bars, juice, wet wipes, etc. that I keep in my car for such an occasion. “Here’s a little something for later.”
“Really.” I asked his name (Thomas) and told him mine, then, “Is Jesus your Savior?”
“Yes. I love him.”
“God bless you.”
He raised his elbow to touch mine. “And you … peace up!” as his thumbs pointed upward.
It’s easy for me to judge someone who is homeless…to think they must not be trying hard enough, might be using the system. And while that may be true, Jesus didn’t tell me to check someone’s worthiness before giving. What if he required me to be ‘worthy’ before he would love me? I don’t know what caused Thomas to become homeless. I don’t know about his family, education, the experiences and relationships that have made him who he is. But his request gave me an opportunity to serve–and his response about Jesus made us family.
Today, because of God’s grace, I was able to treat Thomas as I would like to be treated if I were in his shoes–with dignity and compassion. The experience reminded me of something I just read. If I try to do something on my own, it doesn’t quite cut it. I may do the “right thing”, but without joy, without grace. But if I allow Jesus to respond through me, then it’s truly an act of joyful service.
Dr. Kenneth Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse ministered to patients in Liberia and contracted Ebola; Mother Teresa used up her life in service to “the poorest of the poor.” These are just two examples of individuals living out the Golden Rule and treating others as they would hope to be treated.
Service often brings great joy; sometimes it brings suffering. But it is Christ’s call. I struggle with putting others before myself, especially when I’m tired, preoccupied, running late, or just focused on my own needs or wants. In my selfishness I don’t necessarily want to reach out to give to another in meaningful ways. But when I do, I am reminded that the act itself is often energizing.
Can we think of a time when we were treated in a respectful, compassionate way? Have we had, or missed, opportunities to treat someone else as we want to be treated? Let’s ask God to help us be open to situations where we can treat someone as we would like to be treated–and even more, as Christ has loved us.