It is hard for me to take you there with me, because my own memory is burned with the instant, not the before and after. And mostly with the feelings, not the images.
This is what I remember, vague as the details may be.
I was walking down the street of Delhi, India. It was warm-ish, which means it must have been about time for my 4 months there to be done. It was sunny. I felt confident in my own knowledge of the neighborhood surrounding the Bible College where I’d been living and teaching.
I saw him coming, pulled on a flat cart by another man. He was sprawled on the cart–a makeshift wheelchair: dirty, dressed in rags, hands outstretched, reaching, begging.
As we passed, we locked eyes. He looked weak and frail and old and so sick.
Suddenly, his hand darted out like lightning, and he wrapped my wrist in a vice-grip. I remember thinking he was much stronger than he looked. As his fingers tightened, I panicked. I pried his hand off my arm, finger by finger, and pulled away, desperately.
I was scared. Shocked, Frightened. Disgusted.
I walked quickly about 5 steps and looked back. They continued their journey up the cobblestones, having forgotten me, I’m sure. And, yet, I am still haunted by the thought that came into my mind while we were still just 10 feet apart.
Jesus would have let him hold His Hand.
I was instantly convicted, only to ignore the feeling just as fast, and still live with that regret 15 years later. I could have obeyed in a matter of seconds, turned back, and made good on the example He left for us in Matthew 8: 1-3.
“When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him. And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”
Or maybe even of Peter passing by the lame man at the Gate called Beautiful on his way to the temple in Acts 3:1-9:
“Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God:”
There are dozens of records in the Bible just like this of Jesus and His disciples, running to the sick, poor, and dying, not away. There must have been so many more times that went unrecorded, or John would never have penned these words in John 21:25:
“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”
In other words, it was His practice and lifestyle to reach towards the kind of person I rejected.
My story is not a story I’m proud of, and I wish I could say that I apply the lesson I learned that day on a regular basis. I don’t, but I try.
The truth is that I don’t know what that man wanted from me that day, but I know what I had to give…a loving touch, a prayer, a gentle word, and kind smile.
I walked away from that moment, instead, missing my chance to shine the Light into his life.
We all have moments like this in our lives, sometimes daily, and I’m not here to judge your actions. Only to ask you to evaluate, based on what Jesus asked of us in Matthew 25: 35-40:
“For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.“
James said it in another way in James 1:27:
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
I am not endorsing that Christians seek only to clothe, visit, or feed those that lack basic needs, but in light of His acceptance of us despite our sins, it feels right to open our hands, rather than close them.
Where are the “least of these” in your life? Where can you encourage others? Relieve pain? Visit the lonely? Pray for the sick? Reach out in love?
Be encouraged. Just as I do not get to relive that day in Delhi, none of us have the power to go back and change history; only to ask forgiveness and move forward, covered by His blood.
However, we can change the future. I’m glad this painful, even embarrassing, moment was called to mind this week, because it reminds me that there is more I can do. More I can say. More I can be on the lookout for…
Where is the man on the cart in your life? When he passes by, don’t miss your chance, dear friend! I hope you choose to reach out with the hand of Jesus’ love, and not pull away, eyes clouded with the superficial, as I did that day.
Let’s slow down. Look. See. Love. Share the Word. Meet people where they are. And in doing so, become more like Him.