“‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” — Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
He sat on the side of the road with his head hanging between his knees. Yet I could tell he was young and by all rights handsome. He wore tattered clothes, and his disheveled black hair seemed to stick out in every direction. When I drove by, I sensed my heavenly Father’s nudge to pray with him. Hesitant at first, I argued with God for a few seconds, then turned the car around and parked nearby.
I didn’t know how this would go, but I’ve learned to do what God asks and leave the outcome in God’s hands. As I approached the young man, I introduced myself and asked his name. I acknowledged we were total strangers, but gently asked if there was anything I could pray with him about.
He exploded. With arms flailing, he yelled, “You can take that Christ of yours and go away.” Then he told me he’d lost his entire family and asked, “Where was God during that time?” Through angry tears, he went on for several minutes. When his rage escalated, I became concerned for my safety and walked back to my car, a little shaken. But I committed to pray for him.
While I was still absorbing the impact of this experience, I remembered Jesus concerned himself with one thing — the will of his Father. And the very foundation of God’s will is love.
When we focus on how others differ from us — their outward appearance, behavior, sin, or shortcomings, or on the chasm of culture or religion that separates us — we miss the heart of God. Instead of growing in love, subtle biases and pride take root. We must consistently resist this universal human tendency.
Our primary mission in life is to grow in love. God’s word is clear — we are to love as God loved (1 John 4:7-8 and 1 John 3:18). Jesus asks us to reach out to the disenfranchised, befriend the lonely and forgotten, extend an olive branch to the offended, and honor others without regard to what we will receive in return. These are the profound ways of God.
From all appearances, I made no impact on that young man’s life. Sometimes obedience that shows itself in love takes us to the edge, outside our comfort zone and vulnerable to rejection or misunderstanding. Yet it also offers us the inestimable opportunity to share, just for a minute, the joys and the pain our Savior felt as he walked the earth.