‘God has done a wonderful thing for you,’ he called as I stepped from the bus.
It was 10.15 am last cool sunny Monday; the best of a Brisbane winter.
He was shouting now; his hands clenched in the pockets of his faded jacket.
His lean frame danced while his sneakers beat the rhythm on the footpath.
I glanced at him, and saw no immediate threat so I kept on, checking faces for signs that he was following.
He stepped aside as I passed, then he added, ‘He killed his own son so that you could go to heaven…’
‘Yes. Thanks. I know about that…’
Well, what would you have said?
While I waited to cross the road he caught up; close enough at my back for me to know where he was without needing to turn.
‘God has done a wonderful thing for you. He killed his own son so that you could go to heaven…’
None of us waiting spoke so he stepped between us to cross against the lights, stopping in the middle of the road to avoid a car that turned in front of him.
Unshaken, he stepped up to the folk waiting to cross from that side.
‘God has done a wonderful thing for you. He killed his own son…’
No one abused him (I think the Hindu couple looked a bit bemused) the lights changed and he was left alone.
I went to buy a paper; he, I thought, went on his way.
Checking headlines, I looked up when I heard a familiar voice approaching from around the corner.
‘God has done a wonderful thing for you…’
Now this account is only mildly dramatized. In fact, in that few minutes the man probably repeated himself a couple of times more. As far as I know, he said nothing else; and I recall now that this was not the first time our paths crossed. That was seven years ago on a railway platform; my memory is that his message was the same then.
Do you think he would have heard me if I tried to explain, gently, that his message misrepresented the wonderful thing that God has done for us? My (limited) experience with mental illness tells me not.
Why have I chosen to write about this?
Well, because I just yesterday realized that while I was concentrating on critiquing his message and praying about him (mainly, that he would keep his distance), I at no time, from then until now, prayed for him.
You see, it is a fact of life in our suburb and particularly in the multi-storey block I call home that the signs of mental illness, drug addiction and simple poverty (by Australian standards at least) are evident, like this, on a daily basis.
Recently a man died; a week passed before the police were called to investigate the signs of that…
So, when I sat down to write my next post here, following on from …you-feed-them… and hoping to find some fresh way to describe the sufficiency of Jesus’ perfect (self) sacrifice for our sins, our wonderful gift from his Father, I was surprised to find my thoughts turning in this direction.
Now I see that this (for me at least) was necessary first, in the light of the related passage from Luke’s gospel in the New Testament.
“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus.
“Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: ” `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. `Look after him,’ he said, `and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”