The strangest thing happened at work tonight. I realized that Jesus has been doing something new & fresh in me that I simply had not noticed before...but I am so thankful for now.
The story goes like this; I was trying to change the garbages last night when some of the gals who work in the Deli pointed out a guy who was munching away at the Taco bar...without having paid for his food. In other words, he was shoplifting.
So I went over to this fellow and explained in a nice, calm voice that he really needed to pay for his food first. When he opened his mouth to speak he just about caused my nose hair to melt. He was extremely & sloppily drunk.
Now, I want to explain a few things about myself before I continue. First off, I used to have a volcanic temper...mostly when I was a teen. There are a few things that still can cause me to pop a bolt. This guys situation is one of them. I've been hit by a drunk driver before, so I have little sympathy for people who go out drunk in public. Secondly, I don't like thieves very much either. Thirdly, one of my weak spots comes in the area of "Justice/In-justice." I don't like seeing bad people get away with stuff. I tend to enjoy seeing bad people humiliated in public...or worse. In the past, and other folks at the store can bare witness to this, I have furiously confronted thieves at our store, and I would even be looking for a fight.
Tonight something odd happened that I simply cannot claim as my own doing. As soon as I confronted this guy a thought popped into my head. "This man is Poor in Spirit." When that thought popped into my head everything changed. (I'll explain more about that a bit later) I found myself reverting to my old Teacher Voice that I used in my classroom working with "At-Risk" kids. I kept my voice calm and sympathetic...I actually WAS genuinely sympathetic, which is not in my nature, and thought out how I/we were going to get this guy up the stairs and into the office until the cops could get to the store.
It took a group of us to get him up there, and even to keep him there. Once in the office, the drunk guy wanted to fight a few of us. He was a big guy too...drunk, but still big. It was 5 on 1, so we would have taken him. (Still an elbow to the nose hurts regardless of the victory.) But my heart really hurt for this guy, so I just kept talking calmly to him. He settled down enough that there was no violence. The cops finally came and he was taken away to sleep it all off. I was relieved because I honestly worried that if he had simply walked out, he would have passed out somewhere and froze to death. I think it's possible that I might actually have saved his life.
Here's the facts though. That type of pity, sympathy, what have you, is simply NOT LIKE ME! Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have cared all that much what became of him. "Hey, you go out drunk, pass out and freeze to death, GOOD! The world will be better off without you." But all I could think about is "This man is poor is spirit."
When Jesus began his epic speech on the mountain, he began it with an announcement. He said "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In the Greek, the word for Blessed has the very large concept of "God is on the side of..." So, God is on the side of the poor in spirit. Being poor in spirit is NOT a good thing. In fact, it's really bad. In essence, being poor in spirit means you are a complete & utter LOSER! And yet Jesus claimed that God was on the side of all losers, the thieves, the drunks, the addicted, the unfaithful, the un-religious, the liars...and so on. God doesn't want people to stay in that situation, but His blessing is already theirs.
That sounds very counterintuitive, but I think it's true. No one can EARN God's grace. He extends it to all of us because that's just what God does. The question is whether you will receive it or not.
The following is a link to the Mars Hill church in Michigan. I highly recommend that you subscribe to their podcasts. It's easy enough. It will ultimately take you to your ITunes download thingy. This is where Rob Bell preaches. Anyway, search for the sermon "Blessed are the poor in spirit," and download it. (It was preached on 9/13/09...if that helps) I promise that you won't regret it. I have never heard anything like it before. I can't listen to it with out crying.
Heck, if you can't download it, contact me and I'll just mail you a copy.
I suppose the point of all of this is how much Jesus has changed me over these past few years. I'm quite a jerk much of the time. In fact, according to a fellow employee I am at present an "Ass." Still, tonight something good happened, and I can't claim credit for it. I really believe that Jesus opened my eyes for a brief moment and showed me how he sees a drunken thief. Jesus doesn't look at that man with contempt or hate. He looks at that man in pity and love. I am very thankful that Jesus showed me his worldview for a moment.
I am far from perfect. I can be a jerk. I get frustrated because I am currently not teaching. Still, I have to confess that over these past two years of not being in a classroom, and essentially stewing in a grocery store, it has afforded me time to work on what really matters. Thanks to people like my friends Tom, Abe, Pastor Scott, the guys in my "Heart of Warrior" group, the folks at Living Waters, authors like Don Miller & Brennan Manning...and even speakers like Rob Bell, Jesus has drawn me closer to him. I find that in some very odd ways my worldview is being transformed more into his worldview.
I would not trade that for the world.