I want to share with you a story from a weeks ago. I may have misremembered some of the small details, so for that I apologize.
One day, I was working on a sermon while waiting for my car to be fixed outside the repair shop. I was very busy that week so was trying to just focus on finishing it up. The topic was Impartiality in the Church of Christ covering James 2:8-13, the next in my series on James.
Soon, a man comes up to me asking for money for gasoline. He didn’t look to be in great shape.
At first, I didn’t want to be bothered. I didn’t want to just give him money because I wasn’t sure what he would use it on, even though he held a gas can. I just needed to finish the sermon, which of course was on loving your neighbor and showing mercy instead of judgment.
But he persisted, and I realized that God was nudging me to help this person. Finally, I offered to go with him to the gas station and pay for his gas myself with my card.
We go to the adjacent gas station, but it’s closed. The next closest gas station is about a mile away. I agree to walk with him, though I’m still worried about time.
Not long into the walk, a teen driver suddenly loses control of his car and hops the curb. His car is now blocking the lane, and angry NJ drivers are honking and threatening him. Before I know what’s happening, the man I’m walking with has thrown himself onto this teen’s car that’s sticking out into the road, shielding him and directing traffic around him. I’m astonished by how selfless he is.
When we continue walking, I began to ask him what happened in his life that caused him to be asking for gas like this. He told me that he has PTSD, so I asked if he was a veteran.
He said no. He said that he had a little girl, who died in her sleep one night when she was about three (I believe). He frantically called 911, but police arrived and arrested him because they thought he killed her. It later turned out that his daughter had a heart defect.
Already, I am completely humbled that I did not originally want to help him.
His life spiraled, but eventually he had a son. This son also had a heart defect and died when he was about three months old.
He again spiraled and wound up serving several years in prison for small crimes. He had gotten out a year or two prior. He had SSI for his disability, but at only about $700, he was paying half of that in rent to his brother, so money was a big issue for him.
Finally, I mentioned to him that I was a pastor and he broke down crying. He told me that he had used to be involved in a church years ago, but with all of the life trauma, he had drifted away. But now, he was very interested in going again. I was able to connect him with First Baptist Metuchen and our community.
The Holy Spirit works in unique ways to convict us. I very much had judged this man, thinking he was homeless and perhaps wanted money for drugs or alcohol. However, when I got to learn about his story, I realized how much pain, suffering, and hurt and filled his life. He desperately needed mercy and kindness.
Despite this, he did not judge others in need. He had immediately jumped to help the teenager in the car accident.
Christ calls us not to judge but to offer mercy.