(Recently, I came across this commentary I wrote in the early 1990s and wanted to share it.)
Jesus came to our door last night. It was quite a surprise. His skin was black, his face covered with blood, and he was drunk.
When I answered the door, he mumbled, “Ah.. ah.. need help… had a wreck on my bicycle and I need help.”
The man had come to our side door and wobbled where he stood. My wife Kathy, brought out a chair for him to sit on and then hastened inside to call 911. I squatted down in front of him and comforted him by patting his shoulder. His head was lowered and a drop of blood dripped off his mustache. I was hard to tell at first whether he was actually drunk or in shock from the accident, or both. Kathy was speaking into the landline phone and looking into the carport through the glass panels in the door. She was clearly trying to explain the situation to the emergency operator.
Not really sure what was going on, I called out to her, “Tell them to send an ambulance now!” I was concerned that the operator was wasting time. Kathy opened the door and said, “They already have an ambulance on the way… they just need some more information.” Okay, I thought. But this man needs some help!
I looked closely at this man, in his middle 40s, dazed and injured, and saw the spirit of God within him. This was not some kind of mystical apparition, but simply a recognition that this man was created in the image of God. Jesus tells us he deserves the best care that can be provided. He was not to be scorned and mocked; he should not to be rejected. This injured man should be treated as though he were the Carpenter from Galilee who came stumbling to my door. What we do to others is what we are doing for Jesus.
In two or three minutes, the emergency squad pulled up, soon to be followed by a sheriff’s deputy and, much to the delight of the neighborhood kids, an enormous fire department truck. The ambulance crew come walking up the driveway and one of them was wearing yellow rubber gloves. For a moment, I froze. Immediately, I began looking at my hands to make sure that none of the blood was on me. There was blood on our doorbell and door, but I was okay, no exposure.
The man with the gloves spoke gruffly to my visitor, “Hey! What happened! You been drinkin’? Say! You been drinking?”
The accident victim kept his eyes looking down, “Yahssir…”
“What you been drinkin’?” The medic barked.
Then he turned to me, smiled and spoke respectfully. He wanted to gather a little more information: No, I have never seen this man before. He just happened to come to our door. It seemed like it could be serious. Then the medic turned back to the dazed man with a harsher tone in his voice: “Okay. Get up. Let’s go to the truck.”
My injured visitor was led to the bottom of our driveway, were he sat down awkwardly onto the pavement. I don’t think anyone was particularly excited about getting blood on the inside of their vehicles. I can’t say I blame them. But I do wish they had been a bit more respectful. Do they not recognize who this man actually is?
Well, the excitement was now over and a few thoughts lingered in my head. What does it mean to see every person as a child of God? What does it mean to treat people with dignity and respect, even when they are so undignified in their behavior? What does it mean to really love people? Is love a feeling, or some sense of right behavior?
Let’s look at the scripture…
“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… or thirsty… a stranger… needing clothes… sick… or in prison?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:35-39)
You know, Kathy and I are accustomed to dealing with unusual situations in our ministry and were not affected by the fact our drunk visitor an African-American, but this occurred in rural Georgia in the early 1990s and the thought occurred to us: Out of the 24 doors on our street, how is it that he stumbled up to ours? Who knows? Maybe somewhere out there is a mother, or father, or grandparent, somebody, somewhere who cares deeply for this wayward child and praying for God to protect him as he struggles with the effects of his alcoholism… prayers that led him to a door where God knew he would be met with respect.
When we start looking for Jesus in others, we will find him everywhere. We will find Jesus standing at the side of the road with a cardboard sign, or pass him in the aisle of the grocery store, or in the faces of children, and in our homes, and in how we interact with others. We will serve Jesus when he visits, we may even travel to neighborhoods where he can be found playing a pick-up game of basketball. When we start seeing Jesus in others, we begin to notice him in ourselves. I think this is part of what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
But it is pretty exciting anytime Jesus shows up at your carport door. Let’s all keep our eyes open. We wouldn’t want to miss him.