It was a cold, April morning and I had barely opened my eyes when I heard an obnoxious knock on the door around 6:45 a.m. It was a homeless friend of our’s. I had set my alarm for an early rise to prepare for a Bible lesson to be shared later that day. I didn’t want to answer the door– let alone answer the call for help. I had things to do …lessons to prepare …God’s work to accomplish.
Yet there it was …an incessant knock on the door. This early spring month had ushered in a cold wind making her namesake shiver. My weathered homeless friend wanted to know if she could come in to get warm. Turns out, one of the local shelters turns you out at 5:30 a.m. Her next stop for assistance wasn’t open yet and she needed warmth as she waited.
I’m not sure if it was me or my husband — but one of us opened the door and invited her to come in. I was annoyed. This was not in the plan for my early morning.
She asked for a coat …anything to layer warmth over her thin body. My patience was thin. Roger gave her one of his sweatshirts. Sitting there with my warm cup of coffee, I still wasn’t getting the memo.
But she didn’t stop there. She not only wanted another warm layer of clothing, she also asked if she could be warmed with something to eat …and some coffee as well! My better half, a.k.a. better-at-loving-like-Jesus-than-I-was-in-the-moment, went to the stove and scrambled up a pan full of eggs — serving up some strong coffee and a piece of bread to go with it.
Somewhere in a moment of selfish resignation as in — “I guess I can’t do anything about it at this point. I might as well embrace this moment,” — God’s grace entered. A thought drifted in that I might as well read the passage of Scripture to her out loud and invite her into my Bible study preparation.
The passage? …”The Sermon on the Mount” from Matthew 5-7. You know, a sermon Jesus sat on a hillside and taught to a bunch of people who still looking for the Messiah –not realizing He was sitting right in front of them.
I mumbled out the words of Jesus as He taught those who would listen …
Teaching about Revenge
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow. (Matthew 5:38-42 NLT)
Something about that last line, “Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow,” turned my heart around to really look in those beautiful blue eyes of the one sitting beside me so I could see God’s face and hear His voice. I had almost missed His knock on my door that morning but He was persistent …incessantly knocking. He had a real-life lesson for me in the making. One that can’t be learned through commentaries or study guides. He came to sit down beside me in the early morning hour.
Halfheartedly, I asked what she thought Jesus was trying to say in those words. How would she interpret this hard passage? I knew the stories from her past …stories too raw and painful to type out here. What would she say about “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth?” How would she interpret Jesus’ words to go the second mile?”
Her words broke through. I began taking notes as my unlikely Bible teacher shared wisdom from above.
Taking her scrambled eggs and piling them on a piece of bread, she made an egg sandwich. She liked it that way and voraciously ate her breakfast as she took gulps of hot coffee in between large bites. With a mouth full, she blurted out quite confidently that what they were saying in essence was, “what goes around comes around,” but Jesus was really getting to the core of the issue. With a deep knowing, she said it was really about “seeing where your heart is.”
She said we’re supposed to “pray for them”–those who have hurt us. And speaking of those who have hurt us? My friend knew all about hurt through personal abuse and pain. She knew all too well of injury inflicted by the hand of those who were supposed to love and care for her. She shared some of those painful stories and said, “They really didn’t do it to me.”
How could she say that? The injustice was inexcusable. The acts of violence and abuse inflicted on her, unbearable. She went on to say that God had protected her through all of those painful, abusive times and had spared her life in miraculous ways. And her best line in speaking about Jesus, “He did not fall off the cross!”
Her teaching didn’t stop there. She said, “Don’t go with your mind. Go with your heart and what God is telling you to do. Follow your heart–not your mind.”
And a favorite line from the morning sermon, “Keep your prayer hands up and believe in Him and all things are possible.”
And somewhere between the bites of scrambled eggs and the child-like simplicity of her words, I sensed the Holy Spirit had brought her to me as a gift that morning. She would be my real-life lesson to shed light on Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount by giving me my own personal sermon on our couch.
And the words I shared at my devotional teaching time later that day? The words from my morning teacher, of course.