Not long ago I was helping out at our local Foodbank. The Sutton Foodbank is made up of a group of people from local churches in Sutton (surprisingly enough), who have come together to meet the needs of the needy of our community, working in conjunction with local authorities and charities. We provide people with free food, donated to the Foodbank by local residents and churchgoers, for them and their family for three days.
It’s not much, but it’s something. And it does make a difference. On the surface, it’s something that is very much in tune with how Jesus wanted us to live and I’m proud to be involved with it. The vision is amazing, and I completely believe in it.
The thing is, like a lot of things, the reality is often a lot harder.
Recently a woman came in who was homeless. We sorted out the voucher and gave her some food, enough for three days. I sat down and talked to her, and a friend she had made who was in similar circumstances.
I sat there as she told me her story about how she had come to this situation, and about the reality of her homelessness.
Sleeping under trees, on buses, finding spare beds in hospitals.
It became clear we couldn’t just give this person the same food we always gave people. She had no place to cook food, no place to prepare food or make hot drinks.
Above all, she didn’t even have any cutlery or utensils to eat the food we were giving her.
She’d be eating with her hands effectively, unless we gave her something or she found something to eat with.
Honestly, there was simply nothing to say.
I was stunned into silence.
We often want as Christians to be able to give people the right answer, to be able to offer some platitude that will make everything okay. Some Christians are even proud of their faith for the very reason that for them it gives the definitive right answer to everything.
But in this situation, where we were effectively and in a very real sense being Jesus to this woman and her friend? Honestly, there was nothing in my mind to say.
I had no words.
The only thought I had was ‘what can I possibly say to this person in this situation, that is going to give them real hope?’
No Bible verse or encouraging word about God, or corny line of encouragement, was going to make it okay. In fact, it might even make it worse.
I thought also of just how much I had. As I got to chatting with these two people and shared a bit of my own background, including my job, I realised how lucky I was in comparison. How rich I was.
I faced the stark reality that poverty isn’t something distant, far away, in another country. It’s right here in my midst right now.
The only thing, in the end, I or any of the foodbank team that night, could offer, was love. In the form of a cup of tea & a biscuit, some food (enough for three days anyway),
and a spoon.
A spoon to this person was like treasure. I’ll never forget the gratitude or look of joy in her eyes, just because we were able to offer a bit of food – and a spoon to eat it with.
That’s all we could offer her. Love. In the form of a spoon.
As I reflected on the night’s events, several things became apparent to me.
That this is why Jesus was less interested in law keeping and religion. Jesus spoke again and again about loving one another, and constantly talked about violating the heart of the law but obeying the letter of the law.
This is what Jesus meant when He said the greatest commandment was to love God with all you are, and to love your neighbour as yourself – and that all the other laws and commandments come out of those two.
It’s why Jesus often didn’t give final answers to people’s questions, but often answered with another question.
It became clear again that being a follower of Jesus isn’t about having all the answers – or even any answers. It’s about the act of loving God, and loving one another unconditionally, where we are, as we are.
The way God loves us.
It’s in giving people who have almost nothing food and a spoon. And it’s in those acts of loving one another, in the act of service to God, that we encounter the divine and discover more of the truth of who God is.
That’s not to say it’s not good to learn & study Jesus and the scriptures, and learn more about Jesus, and get good teaching.
But the point is that those things aren’t the point.
They help point us toward God, they help us understand Him. But we aren’t God, we were made by Him, conceived of His imagination, and we’ll never be able to understand Him fully or know Him completely. He’s like the sun, which we can never fully look into, but know is there by the light and warmth it gives off, and which sustains our planet.
We will never know all the answers about God and His world, to all the questions we ask of God.
Sometimes, like this night recently, the only answer we have is simply to love.
Love in the way Jesus did. With our actions. And it doesn’t even involve that much of a sacrifice either, certainly it didn’t in this case.
All it required was food – and a spoon to eat it with.
Sometimes loving someone is as simple as a spoon.
How can you show love simply but powerfully?
Do you realise how much you have if you live in the West?
Are you thankful for the wealth and opportunities that you have?
Do you waste opportunities to serve those in need and make a difference?
How much of your faith is religion not followed up by action? What can you do to change that?
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