Along the journey of 36 years of walking with Jesus, my fondest memories are times where I am simply, as the old adage says, ‘a beggar offering another beggar a piece of bread.’ Before twenty, my life was filled with questions, haunting perplexity, and seeking something I knew existed, but had no idea where to find. A homeless wandering soul is an apt description, something I try to remember when I approach someone in the name of Jesus. It offers that other, not answers, but a chance to identify with someone who has felt their pain, shouted at the graveyards, mad at the world. It offers that other, a way in which to picture their lives at a cross roads, because without that context, it’s hard to understand why Jesus suffered so much, just for me. I am a beggar offering bread.
So are you.
When I can keep that in mind, it holds my feet firmly upon the nails in Jesus’ own feet. It shows my hands offering something, I’m not worthy to have, but because of His scars and generosity to me, I can extend them in mercy. It shows that other, that it’s possible, though fully loved and secure in the Father’s house, to leave those safe confines and bring the Father’s message to anyone along my journey wanting to hear.
I do this evangelism thing for a living, so some might consider me a professional. I’ve had every kind of training known to the church, and have trained thousands in the art and science of being winsome, handling the message of Christ deftly, and humbly to offer this bread to tired and hungry souls. It’s what I do, and have devoted my life to. But I don’t call myself professional. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no dilettante either. I put a lot of thought, prayer, planning and training into it, because the culture’s landscape is changing so dramatically, and so quickly. It’s hard to keep up with how teenagers think, and what new trends affect their ideas. It’s why, even though I lead now on an executive level, I keep my sword sharp by asking God to keep my eyes peeled for opportunities.
But that’s my profession speaking. What about my heart? Do I still love sharing my faith after all these years? Does the adrenaline still pump, that gut tightening anxious gnaw in the gut, not knowing how this other will respond when I bring up the topic? Yes, yes, and oh very much so!
Last week I was on a flight where the guy in the middle seat was bending the ear of the man next to him. By any standard he was a winsome conversationalist, quoting statistics from sports, and defending his opinions, laughing, and something more—referencing God in his chatter. While I ease dropped, I prayed. When there was a lull, I asked a simple question. “I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation and laughter. I thought I heard a few times a reference to God. Are you guys, by any chance, followers of Jesus?” The man next me to shock his head yes, and we briefly discussed our faith. The man next to him, however, stared on blankly. I could tell my question had erased a few lines of cultural protocol; left him agitated. For the rest of the trip, faith was our topic of choice. At one point I said, looking into the other man’s eyes, “When Jesus uttered those famous words from the cross, ‘my God my God, why have you forsaken me,’ it was the first time he didn’t use the endearing salutation, ‘Father.’ You know why?” He shook his head, no. “Because at that moment he lost his relationship with God, so that we could have a relationship with Him.” The man’s eyes betrayed him. In that moment, the Holy Spirit was turning his heart from doubt to belief. In me, adrenaline had turned into an afterglow of joy.
Let me suggest that the body of Christ doesn’t get enough chances to see adrenaline move into joy. That’s not a judgment, merely an observation. I make it because something has happened over the past few years, a disturbing trend. We have become a body of silent beggars. Having been adopted, and brought into the family ourselves, we forget that now our primary purpose is to leave the house, and go to the place we had been, to the beggars all around us. Not with slick relational and relevant messaging, but with a heart that identifies, a heart that knows how lonely beggars can be, and a heart willing to be foolish for the sake of someone receiving bread that will feed them now, and for eternity.