The man was of small stature. His large black backpack hung to the back of his knees and the top rose to just above his head. The legs of his stained jeans were too long. They crumpled on top of his shoes, and they were frayed at the bottom from being dragged along the ground with each small step. I noticed he had a slight limp as he approached. He stopped some twenty feet away next to a trash can. He took long drags on a cigarette as he scanned the establishment where I sat eating a burger. He held his cigarette by his side as he opened the door to beg some money from an acquaintance of his. His request was denied, and he quickly closed the door and proceeded to the side of the building to finish his cigarette. I made a comment to the person I was eating with about the beggar having money for cigarettes. As the one who denied the beggar’s request for money threw away his garbage and prepared to exit the building, he stopped momentarily. He then explained to a room full of strangers he did not mind giving the beggar money, but he could not do so every single day. He said the beggar needed to get a job. At that moment, the beggar put out his cigarette and entered through the side door. The beggar made small popping noises with his mouth as he followed the other man out the front door. The man stopped at his car where the two exchanged a few words. He then handed the beggar some money and shrugged in my direction before getting in his car and driving away. The beggar came back through the front door as a customer this time ordering a soda. As I threw away my garbage, the beggar headed back out the front of the building. My suspicion I would be asked for money was confirmed as I passed by the consumer turned beggar. I shook my head no and continued to my car.
Was the beggar hungry or was he a scammer? Was he unable to work or simply lazy? I do not know. However, I do know I failed my brother that day because my brother could have been hungry, and I had enough money to buy him a meal yet I refused. That beggar is my brother. I had never seen him before, and I will probably never see him again. I have never spoken to him. We live in different states and know nothing about each other. We have different mothers and dads, but we share the same heavenly Father. Like everyone else on this planet, we are brothers. That beggar is your brother too. The Bible repeatedly tells us we are God’s children. We are His creation. Deuteronomy 14:1 calls us "children of the LORD.” Paul called us the "offspring of God” in Acts 17:28. Christ tells us God is our Father, and He knows our needs in Matthew 6:32 and Luke 12:30. These scriptures, and others, make clear we are all in this together. We are all God’s children.
I failed my brother that day, but I also failed myself. Had I taken ten dollars from my wallet and bought the man a hamburger and fries, I would never have missed that money. However, I would have gifted myself a feeling of satisfaction in doing something for someone else. I know I would have felt good if I had given that man some food. So, why did I refuse? At that moment, my heart was hardened. For whatever reason, I rationalized why I should not give him the money. He had money for cigarettes. He might use the money to buy drugs or alcohol. He might not even need the money. Looking back, none of my rationalizations were worth the risk of having my brother go hungry. I think differently about this beggar brother than I do about my brother who grew up with me. I do not feel the love toward my beggar brother which I feel toward the brother with whom I share parents. Had the man begging for money been the brother I grew up with, I would not have failed him. I would not have bought him a simple hamburger. We would have visited over a full meal. The love I should feel toward my brothers and sisters who I do not personally know is lacking. When I see a stranger on the street, my heart does not glow with the same warmth I feel when I see my brother with whom I shared a room as a child. When I see protestors on television blocking streets I feel little love for them. I cannot relate to the politician making promises he cannot keep. There is no emotional tie which binds me closely to the lady exiting the gentleman’s club or the gentleman entering in. I feel no inseparable connection to the pastor preaching lies nor with the homeless lady speaking the truth. There is no mutual bond with the perfect woman who has placed hair number 23,475 slightly askew in order to make herself look more natural. There is no feeling of brotherhood with the tattoo clad man climbing across his Harley, the business suit exiting her Mercedes, or the t-shirt descending from the Peterbilt. When I look at the young man dressed like a thug, I do not see my brother. I see a thug. When I look at the man dressed like a skinhead, I cannot see my brother. I see only a skinhead. When I look at all these people who are as imperfect as myself, I fail to feel true brotherly love toward them. I feel empathy toward them. I want the best for them, but I lack that feeling of real brotherly love I feel for my "true” brother. Why?
What causes a person to lack this basic feeling of brotherly love toward mankind? According to a recent article in the Atlantic, power causes brain damage (Useem, 2017). Specifically, powerful people suffer the kind of brain damage which makes one less adept at seeing things from another person’s point of view. There appears to be an epidemic of this type of brain damage in the world today. I am certainly not immune although I do not feel very powerful. Perhaps simply living in the world in which we live gives one enough of a sense of power to suffer this kind of brain damage. The article in the Atlantic suggested remaining reminiscent of moments of powerlessness may be an effective way to comminute the undesirable side effects of power. I believe this is the exact same idea Paul is describing in 2Corinthinians 12:7.
2Co 12:7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
When Paul asked God to remove the thorn, God replied "My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness" (2Corinthinians 12:9).
In the context of the lesson I’m learning, I surmise power is made perfect in powerlessness. By embracing memories of extreme powerlessness, perhaps I can better relate to the drug addicted, the alcoholic, the protestor, the policeman, the politician, and the president whoever those people happen to be. Perhaps this is the key to the embodiment of the sermon on the mount, specifically the first seven verses of it.
Mat 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Mat 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Mat 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Mat 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
Mat 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
Mat 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
I have spent considerable time thinking of my failure over the last several days. I had this feeling my failure was even more sinister than I first believed. I felt I was missing something, and I was correct. I was missing something extremely important. What I was missing was revealed when I came to truly contemplate Matthew 25:34 through 25:40.
Mat 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
Mat 25:35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Mat 25:36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Mat 25:37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
Mat 25:38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Mat 25:39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
Mat 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
These scriptures show I not only failed my brother and myself, I failed God Himself. We must take these scriptures very literally because of what Christ tells us in John 14:17, 14:20, and 14:23.
Joh 14:17 Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
Joh 14:20 At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.
Joh 14:23 Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.
Each of us, in all our imperfections, are vessels which were created to be inhabited by God Himself. Paul spoke very plainly on this point in his letters to the Corinthians.
1Co 3:16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
1Co 3:17 If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.
1Co 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?
2Co 6:16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
These scriptures get right to the crux of the matter. These are the scriptures upon which our souls are laid bare. These are the scriptures upon which we test how much we truly believe the word of God. If we really believe we are temples for our God, how much differently do we treat the temple? Do we continue to stuff the temple’s orifice with junk food, alcohol, drugs, or chemicals? If I believe we were all created to be temples for God, do I harden my heart and let one of those temples go hungry? If we are all meant to be temples, I cannot be angry with anyone without also being angry with God. This is because for all I know God is dwelling in the people I am angry with at the very moment I am angry with them. Oh, if only we could all learn this most valuable lesson and live by it day by day . . . minute by minute. What if the man wearing the Obama shirt could see the man wearing the Trump shirt as a temple of God and vice versa? What would the world be like if we all saw our enemies as they are truly intended to be: temples for God? Would we be kinder to one another if we truly believed God was dwelling in the people surrounding us? Would we drive a little more carefully if we saw every other driver on the road as a temple for God? Would we be a little more patient when someone makes a mistake if we realized the person making the mistake is a vessel full of the Holy Spirit? Could we bad mouth President Obama if we truly realized he was created to be a temple for God? Could we protest against President Trump if we truly believed he was created to be a vessel for God? Could we treat each other the way we do, if we truly believed God dwells in each of us?
We cannot talk bad about another person without talking bad about God. We cannot be angry with another person without being angry with our God. We cannot hate another without hating God. We cannot refuse a beggar’s request without refusing God. Our body is the temple of God. Each and every one of us has been created to be a temple for the living God. We are all connected in that most intimate of ways. Once we come to this realization, we must accept the fact we cannot hate any other person without destroying our self. In Mark 3:25, Christ said "And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand." Each of us is a vessel for the Holy Spirit: a dwelling place for God. Knowing that, read Mark 3:29.
Mar 3:29 But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
This is consistent with the message from the sermon on the mount.
Mat 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
We can hold no animosity toward any other person without destroying the very temple of the One who supports every breath we take. One temple was destroyed in order to wash away all the imperfections from the rest of us.
Joh 2:19 Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.
How can we deny the power of Christ by continuing to see flaws in those around us after this precious sacrifice was made on their behalf? I am often reminded Christ died for me. But what about every other person? He sacrificed Himself for the man of small stature with the large black backpack also. How could I harden my heart against someone the LORD thinks so highly of?
A true short story about one person’s attempt to understand the purpose for mankind from a Biblical perspective.
By Robby Lockeby
Useem, J. (2017, June 23). Power Causes Brain Damage. (Atlantic Media Company) Retrieved July 5, 2017, from The Atlantic: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/07/power-causes-brain-damage/528711