This is Shelby. We met a couple of years ago. He lives behind a gas station in the south side of Chicago. Shelby is a homeless alcoholic with a likeable personality. He has been confined to a wheelchair after being hit by a car. He has lived behind the same Citgo station for several years. I know all this because I took the time to talk to another person that is a little different than myself.
A basic need of humans is companionship. Everyday presents new opportunities to connect with other humans. Most of us stay right inside our comfort zone of talking with people similar to ourselves. We talk with co-workers, some neighbors, church members, even most relatives. It is when we find ourselves in the presence of others from a completely different social class that the desire to connect shuts down. In other words we feel uncomfortable. We judge. We ignore. It is easy to forget there is an eternal connection to the decisions we make in this life.
Jesus showed a considerable amount of concern for the poor and downtrodden. One of the passages that emphasize this is Mathew 25:31-46 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
These are tough words to read and accept. The thought that our faith requires action beyond religious activity should motivate us to prayerfully seek ways to serve others. This is the Christmas season, a time we set apart to share gifts and be generous. There are plenty of opportunities to help others anonymously such as dropping coins in the red kettle. This time of year the homeless shelters will have an abundance of volunteers. It is the rest of the year others needs are pushed to the outer reaches of thought. Those of us who claim to be Christian do not have an excuse for ignoring the needs of others in distress. Don’t mistake what I am saying for religiosity. I am not suggesting people sell their possessions and give it all to the poor until nobody has wealth left. I am saying that scripture clearly instructs followers of Christ to treat all humans with compassion as we are enabled. Sometimes the best gift a person can receive is a warm smile and a “hello”.
Rev. Burt Schwab