The gate bell rang.
When it did, I considered my options. Should I answer it or should I ignore it?
I know that answering our gate bell means almost 99.9% of the time that there is a person in need standing behind the gate. The visitors come for different reasons. Some are in search of money. Some know that they will receive a packet of food. And others come to sell their wares; tablecloths, a broom, food protection nets, bowls, towels, etc.
Since it was the middle of the afternoon, and I was not in the middle of anything critical, I chose to answer; having no idea who had come to call.
“It’s Julia,” came the familiar voice. “I’ve just come from Zimbabwe.”
I walked out to meet her. I quickly learned that she had brought her son as well. Julia and her 21 year old son Rowan had traveled on an overnight bus from Zimbabwe and were now in Johannesburg to sell their goods. This was Rowan’s first trip to South Africa. His mother planned to teach him the family business.
They looked exhausted.
Now, since I have known Julia for many years, I knew it was safe to invite her and Rowan into our home. The two weary travelers sat down at our dining room table and I prepared some food for them to eat.
That morning our family had read these words from John 13…
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (New International Version, John 13:34-35).
John and I had shared with our sons the importance of loving others as Jesus Christ loved us; even if some one didn’t necessarily deserve our love.
You see, I didn’t have to invite Julia and Rowan into our home. I didn’t have to prepare food for them. I didn’t even have to answer our gate bell in the first place. However, I did because of the compelling love and merciful grace of my Savior.
But what happened next, would take Julia, Rowan, myself and our family to an even deeper level of understanding what it meant to love one another as Christ loved.
As I conversed with Julia and Rowan at our table, I could tell that something troubled them. I asked about their health, and it was then that Julia said, “Rowan’s leg is injured. It was hard for him to walk here today.”
I enquired about Rowan’s leg. I learned that Rowan had been hurt three weeks ago while playing soccer. His cuts had not healed and were still bleeding.
I asked for permission to look at Rowan’s leg. As I surveyed the three different wounds, I immediately observed that each area was infected. One area was especially swollen. When I felt the area around the wound, it was warm to the touch. I realized that without medical attention, Rowan’s leg would only get worse. And since they were in Johannesburg, to walk its streets from door to door to sell their wares, Rowan was sure to struggle.
What would you do now?
Would you give them plasters (band-aids) and wish them well?
Would you give them medical advice?
Would you tell them to go to a government clinic to get assistance?
Jesus said these words to our family that very morning, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Our bible reading had just intersected with our lives.
I excused myself from the dining room table and walked outside to John and told him what was going on. Together, we knew what was most needed. We were being asked to love like Christ and provide for the needs of this family.
If one of my sons had similar wounds, what would I do?
I called my doctor. I shared with him about our situation. My doctor immediately told me to make an appointment for that afternoon to bring Rowan to see him.
Within an hour and a half, Rowan was being examined by our doctor. My earlier observations were proven correct. Rowan’s leg was badly infected. Without treatment, the infection could enter his bloodstream and cause even greater problems. There was no time to lose.
Dr. Ilsley prescribed an antibiotic. In addition, he instructed us on what kind of care was needed in the days ahead to heal the wounds. At the pharmacy, we picked up plasters, gauze, antibiotics, anti-biotic soap and cream. Healing would be slow, but it would come if the wounds were cleaned every day over the course of the next three weeks. Rowan would also need to take his anti-biotic twice daily.
Within hours of calling at our gate, Rowan was on a pathway to recovery.
Throughout the afternoon’s events, I kept thinking about what I might do if my son was in need and I was desperate for help in a land far from my home. I realized that this was Julia’s situation. For Julia, she decided to make her way to our gate; straight from the bus station. She didn’t know if we would be home. She didn’t know if we would help. She didn’t know what to expect. However, she came nonetheless, because she didn’t know what else to do for her son.
What other kinds of opportunities are waiting for us to demonstrate a love, a Christ-like love?
Yesterday, this love required opening my gate and my heart to a couple of weary and wounded travelers. Today? Tomorrow? I don’t know.
Yet, I am commanded nonetheless. Love like Christ loves me. Love others like they were my own son, my own family, my good friends. This is not a “what would Jesus do” kind of deal. This is a “how would Jesus love me” kind of deal so that I in turn can love others like He loves me. Do you see the difference?
If yes, let’s be open and ready to open our gates and our hearts to those around us who are in desperate need of the love of Christ. We have His love. He asks us to share it.
Photo from http://www.fbcabbeville.net/archives/1653