I Was A Stranger

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It’s time to tell a story that I haven’t told many people.

In the fall of 2011 my friend and mentor at the time invited me to visit a homeless man in the hospital. Shawn had built a relationship with Rahim and was introducing him to Jesus. Shawn’s passion to reach this broken man cultivated sympathy in my heart for Rahim – sympathy that would soon turn to deep, abiding empathy.

We pulled into the parking garage of the hospital and walked up to Rahim’s room. There laid a man that was sick, frail, and so happy to see people. I don’t remember much about the meeting up to the point when Rahim told us that they were about to kick him out of the hospital, which meant that Rahim would go back to living on the street.  That didn’t seem right to me – knowing that I would go back to my plush carpeted apartment and indulge in eggs and oatmeal.

The moment didn’t seem to warrant thoughts about judging and assuming his life decisions either… his past wasn’t my issue… my responsibility was to act on the conviction that the cross of Jesus brought to my heart – that was my issue. My conviction in that moment – “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.”

Lest I distance myself from that truth, or deny Christ all together… I couldn’t not invite this man to stay with me. BUT… I had to ask my roommates first.

By God’s grace, I had roommates at that time, who whether or not they liked the idea, acted on what was right and agreed to invite him to stay with us for a time. I don’t know how long we agreed upon… it doesn’t matter.

Rahim came from the hospital and stayed in our home – slept on our couch – inhabited our living room – pretty sure he did drugs in our bathroom – and used our kitchen… the man could cook like a pro!

It was cool.

But don’t get me wrong… I was skeptical. I would leave for meetings or classes for the day and wonder if all my stuff would be there when I came home. I would wipe down everything with Clorox wipes and spray air freshener everywhere on a regular basis.

The white-washed tomb of my heart was skeptical and leery of this suspicious man that I let into my life.

One night in particular the Holy Spirit launched me into brokenness before the Lord. I felt dead inside. I hadn’t loved Rahim like Jesus had loved me. The words, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me in” were being massaged into my soul. This wasn’t about maintaining order. This wasn’t about doing a kind deed. This wasn’t about helping this guy get on his feet. This was about Jesus invading my heart and Jesus invading Rahim’s life through my life.

My love for Rahim was not full… and in feeling that brokenness I felt more fully the truth that Jesus loves me faithfully and fully. My servanthood towards Rahim was not selfless… and in feeling that brokenness I felt how Christ’s brokenness on the cross made me whole. My heart was being broken. The Pharisee in me that wanted Rahim to become a white washed tomb was being shattered. The part of me that wanted earthly treasures and earthly order over the eternal treasure and order in my soul was being struck down.

In His grace, Jesus saw it fit that through bringing a broken man into close proximity to me – I would see my brokenness. And in trying to show selfless, lavish love – I would encounter the selfless love of Jesus.

God was using Rahim to show me that his physical neediness was much less than my spiritual neediness, and that my supply of care for Rahim physically was far less than Jesus’ care for me spiritually.

In the drastic measure of welcoming Rahim into my life – I felt a deeper welcoming from the King of Heaven.

One day Rahim was gone, never to be seen again. I can’t remember if there was a note. But I knew that he felt unworthy. I knew that he felt like he couldn’t pay us back. I knew that he felt like he wasn’t good enough for us. I know that he loved his addictions. I had once driven him to a crappy motel where a man offered him a job for $25 a week. I told the man for Rahim – no deal! I knew that the scene was probably drug running. And I pleaded with the Lord for Rahim’s soul to encounter the ridiculous grace of Jesus. And pleaded with Rahim that he walk in the grace of Jesus extended to him.

That became my prayer – Jesus, extend grace to Rahim’s heart like you have mine. Only you can rescue him. Only you can love him perfectly. Only you can change his heart.

Because of the blood of Jesus, Rahim became my family. I say this with tears currently.

The blood of Jesus doesn’t keep us from the poor and lost. The blood of Jesus doesn’t stiff-arm the mess in people. The blood of Jesus doesn’t make people a project. The blood of Jesus doesn’t belittle. The blood of Jesus makes new. The blood of Jesus cleanses. The blood of Jesus purchases. The blood of Jesus endures.

The church was not meant to be cologne, scarves, lattes, pineapples on walls, knowledge duels, leadership exercises, and every other secondary thing.

The church of Jesus is a collection of people who have been alienated from God, and brought back by the relentless, selfless, warring blood of Jesus. And the church is evidenced by that blood flowing through us to the broken, rejected, wounded, undeserving, messy people of the world so that they might be brought to Jesus.

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me in.” – Jesus

We welcome Jesus in when we welcome strangers in…

And as we welcome strangers in…

We meet Jesus who welcomed us in when we were estranged from Him.

Be the Church, Church.

For the joy SET BEFORE me,

Peter

 

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