I recently traveled to Houston’s medical center for a routine doctor’s appointment. While driving, I often listen to recorded books. On this day I was engrossed in The Desire of the Everlasting Hills by Thomas Cahill. Although unorthodox in his christology, Cahill summarizes the teaching of Jesus both passionately and with eloquence. At the moment he was discussing Jesus’ judgment parable of the Sheep and the Goats. The charity that pleases Jesus, Cahill rightly expounded, is not only free-hearted and generous but joyful and spontaneous — giving to the needy who in that instant stand in for Jesus Christ himself. “Impressive!” I thought. “I want to be more like that.”
Shortly afterward, I stopped at a traffic light, where a desperately-poor beggar approached my car. “I need some shoes,” he truthfully said, pointing to the remnants of what once had been footwear. Somewhat begrudgingly, I found myself reaching into my pocket for a dollar bill, instead finding only a $5 bill and a $20 bill. “Will you take some change?” I asked, dropping all my loose coins in his container.
As I drove away, I was overwhelmed with the awareness of the test I had just failed — miserably failed in every respect. “I should not have hesitated to give this man $5 for shoes,” I realized. “God, please forgive me and give me another chance!”
Today, in his grace, God did just that. I was getting gasoline when I saw another representative of Jesus standing at the street corner . . . crutch under his arm . . . his amputated leg clearly visible. Standing at the pump, I looked in my pocket. A $5 and a $20. Deja vu. With joy I completed my fill-up, drove into the street and over to where he stood. My traffic light was red. “This is in the name of Jesus Christ,” I excitedly said as I handed him the $5 bill. He responded immediately: “A Jesus man . . . ” he said. Then, looking upward, “Thank you, Lord.” The words echoed in my mind. “Thank you, Lord, from me — for the privilege and the joy of getting to be a “Jesus man.” It’s a baby step in obedience, to be sure, but a baby step in the right direction.