Last night, I sat in a church and listened to Zambian children sing. And I heard something I’ve never heard before. No, not the sound of a drum sans drumsticks, not the sound of the soaring notes.
Actually, it wasn’t a song at all.
Each of the kids — students at the Lifesong for Orphans school in Zambia — shared their favorite school subjects, dreams, and favorite passages of Scripture. It was an endearingly real moment — stuttering, laughter, forgetting words. One girl recited Psalm 23 from beginning to end, another quoted Romans.
But then it was the smallest boy’s turn to speak. And he leaned into to the microphone and looked into the crowd. “My favorite verse is Matthew 35 verse 25”, he said in halting English. “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.”
Oh, my heart!
It’s one of those verses we’ve read a hundred times, isn’t it? But honestly? When was the last time you heard a friend say it was their favorite verse? It’s a passage we’re familiar with, but not a passage we’re accustomed to seeing highlighted and memorized and repeated and claimed as a personal promise and emblazoned on t-shirts and bookmarks and greeting cards.
But this is Jesus. This is real. He’s among us — feeding, loving, caring, doing.
Sometimes, I think we lose that connection between Jesus-the-Ethereal-Being and Jesus-the-Man. I think we lose the connection between hypothetical love and practical, get-your-hands-dirty, work-hard love. We over-spiritualize it. We complicate it and organize it and delegate it and analyze it and create ministries for it and philosophize about it and invent words about it.
But it was a real, I’m-right-there-with-you, here-is-a-meal, here-is-a-bed kind of love that spoke to this boy’s heart.
It’s what Jesus’ love,
and present, looks like.
And I never want to forget it.
“Sometimes the best way to bring good news to the poor is to bring actual good news to the poor. It appears a good way to bring relief to the oppressed is to bring real relief to the oppressed. It’s almost like Jesus meant what He said. When you’re desperate, usually the best news you can receive is food, water, shelter. These provisions communicate God’s presence infinitely more than a tract or Christian performance in the local park. They convey, ‘God loves you so dearly, He sent people to your rescue.'” -Jen Hatmaker