A Way to Love Jesus
Once upon a time, there was a woman—a very poor woman, a sickly young widow with a young child. She scrimped, and she saved to the best of her ability, yet it was a constant struggle for her to make ends meet and to provide adequately for her son whom she loved dearly.
Some nights, at dinner, they would eat the last bits of food remaining in their cupboard. The next day, she would send him to school with no breakfast, and no lunch box. She would watch from the window as her little boy walked off to school—past the donut shop on the corner. She watched as people spilled out of the donut shop, licking chocolate off their fingers. As she watched, tears rolled down her cheeks. The people walking out of the donut shop were amply well fed, but her son was hungry, with no breakfast and no lunch, and no one gave him a thing. She knew it was not the fault of those people that her son was hungry while they were well fed, but it hurt anyway because she loved that boy and hated to see him go hungry.
One summer, her son got a job downtown, sweeping litter and broken glass off the sidewalks and scraping graffiti off the walls. His mother worked nearby, and sometimes she caught glimpses of him. She saw the sweat streaming down his face from the hard work under the hot sun. She knew how thirsty he must have been, but she also knew there was no drinking fountain in that part of town. As she watched, she saw people stroll by with tall glasses of icy lemonade, and she cried because no one offered him a drink. She knew it was not the fault of those people that her son was thirsty while they enjoyed lemonade, but it hurt anyway because she loved that boy and hated to see him go thirsty.
One day this mother went to her son’s school to observe the class. She watched the other students shun him because his clothes were old and out of style, and he had holes in his shoes, and he didn’t own a baseball glove. She wished she could give him more, but she wasn’t able to. Instead, she cried because she loved that boy and hated to see him rejected.
When winter came, and the cold snow blew along the sidewalk, she stood at the window and cried again, as she watched her son shiver in the wind, in a coat that had become too short for him and had worn too thin. Other children walked by in bright, new, down-filled jackets, and she cried for her son. She knew it wasn’t those children’s fault that their jackets were large and warm while her son’s jacket was old and ragged, but it hurt anyway, because she loved that boy and hated to see him shiver so.
One winter day, the boy stayed home from school. His cough had been growing worse for days. Now the fever was high. The boy lay on his bed and coughed up blood. He grew weaker by the day. No one sent him a card. No one brought him a gift. No one even phoned to check on him—until one day the school’s truant officer came by to find out what excuse the boy had for missing class. The mother cried again. She knew it wasn’t the truant officer’s fault. He was only doing his job, but it hurt her anyway because she loved that boy, and she wished that somebody else would love him too.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a similar story…but from a different vantage point. Jesus tells of “the Son of Man” sitting on a judgment throne and saying to some people, “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Those people then ask him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” And the answer is given, “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.”
The reason Jesus tells this story is because God’s love for struggling little boys is even greater than the love of the mother who weeps for her struggling child. And God’s love for struggling little girls and for every struggling person is deeper than we can wrap our hearts around. The reason Christ calls us to give food to the hungry and drink to the thirsty and welcome to the stranger and clothing to the threadbare and a visit to the sick and the prisoner, is because God’s own heart goes out to each person in need. When we act with care toward one whom Jesus loves, we act in love toward Jesus.