On a hot, muggy evening a few months ago, I was walking down the street with Grayson, my 11 year old. On our way to a prayer meeting, we passed a homeless guy who asked for money for dinner. I diverted my eyes and kept walking. Grayson, unsure of the protocol on this sort of thing, grabbed my arm and said “Dad, that guy’s hungry!”.
I didn’t have time to explain to Grayson that A) giving that guy $5 would not fix his real problems or that B) the $5 we’d give him would most likely go to booze or drugs. Instead, I gave him a shorter answer - one that makes me cringe to this day.
“Gray, we can’t help him. We’re on our way to a prayer meeting.”
Even at 11, my son instantly recognized that as one of the dumbest things ever verbalized. Even now as I sit alone and type it out, I’m horrified. I actually said that sentence out loud, in public, to a child.
As long as I can remember, there’s been a disconnect between doing and praying. Churches had a tendency to lean hard one way or the other - activism or intercession. In connecting with a body of believers, you chose between addressing social ills or committing to going deep with God. It never occurred to us that addressing social ills might mean going deep with God or vice versa. We didn’t consider that to try to do one while ignoring the other was to be far less than Jesus told us to be.
The Pharisees once tried to get a pass on this by asking Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” If you can determine what’s most important and focus on it, then you can stake out your defense against all the other lesser to-do’s. Jesus, as good with words as the next guy, fired right back:
" 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
With that, the Pharisees let out a subtle sigh of relief. “Ok. We have the greatest one nailed. The second is a biggie, but, it’s second...”
Ever the Master of the dramatic pause, Jesus then dropped the bomb. “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."
“All the law and the prophets” meant that everything God had established in their history and promised for their future. They dangled between those connection points - the back then and the soon to come - and getting from one to another meant loving God and loving people.
Jesus drew a dynamic connection between our vertical relationship and our horizontal relationships...our depth in God and our breadth of influence. He would have questioned the validity of any church or believer who managed to neglect God for the sake of people, or in my case, people for the sake of God.
When my sons eyes met mine, I saw what no dad wants to see - disappointment. Both of us were embarrassed at my answer about being to busy going to a prayer meeting to help a homeless guy. Smelling blood, Grayson stepped in to finish me off.
“Dad, let’s buy him a burrito...I’ll pay for it with my own money.”
Trying to fight the tears that were welling up at the outer edges of my eyes, I walked into a restaurant with my son and watched him order the biggest burrito ever assembled - one that would ultimately end up the size of a football. While the Burrito Assembly Crew worked on the monstrosity, Grayson turned his attention to the salsa bar, gathering two containers of each of the four options. I wondered when was the last time this guy had been given any options.
Armed with his bomb of a burrito and accompanying salsa ensemble, Grayson marched to where we’d passed the guy on the curb. Shaking off a momentary wave of nervousness, he stepped up. “Sir...”, he said, “I bought you a burrito to show you that God loves you. It’s right here, along with some different kinds of salsa.”
The dark eyes of a man who had been mistreated for years looked at him in disbelief. “What?” the man asked gruffly. Grayson repeated his pitch. As disbelief passed, the man took the burrito and grasped Grayson’s hand. Leveling his gaze into my son’s eyes, he spoke man to a man. “Thank you. Thank you very much.”
Walking away, Grayson was 10 feet all. He had questions about the man’s behavior, and so I explained the best I could that life on the street can be very hard, affecting people’s mental and spiritual state. Nearing the prayer meeting, he said “Oh man - I should have prayed for him! That would have been awesome!”
In the next week, Grayson spent every dime he had buying burritos for homeless guys, laying hands on them and praying for them. He was going for it - bound and determined to see someone set free.
After his third burrito prayer meeting, he walked away saying “It’s great that he’s got food, but I want to see him healed. Dad, I’m gonna get someone healed! I’m gonna get one!”
I believe him. Everything God has said in the past and everything He tells us about the future points to it.