To Love is a Command Not a Choice
As I ran the short distance from the car to the church building, the wind blew freezing cold from the snow-capped mountains around our city. Our little church is in the red-light district downtown, squeezed between two three-story apartment buildings that house prostitutes and transvestites. The little building does not look like much, but as I pushed the heavy, cold, metal door open, I was touched by the warm, friendly chattering of people mingling inside.
Often during our time of worship and singing in the summertime, people walking by in the street will stop and listen through the open windows. Some will take a free Bible from the windowsill, and some will even come in and sit down for a bit. There is a constant flow of people coming and going through the open door of this little building, for prayer or just out of curiosity. A few Sundays ago, a man lit his cigarette for a smoke during the sermon; another man got up and made himself a cup of tea. Somebody climbed through the manhole in the Sunday school class and sat smoking his cigarette on the roof. It all sounds strange, but these people know where to come and hear about God and sense His love.
The next Sunday morning, a man familiar to me came again with his usual dirty, worn-out clothes. He seemed drunk and had obvious sores on his face and hands which I had not noticed before. The doorman helped him in. As he passed by me, I smelled a heavy alcohol stench and noticed his pants soiled in the back. He was seated next to an elderly lady who had been coming regularly.
During the worship he sat quietly with his eyes open but his head bowed. I wondered if he came in because the streets were bitter cold and the church somewhat warmer, or if he was really searching for Jesus and an end to his struggles. I stood in the back praying for him, hoping he would realize that Jesus could change his life—that he could be saved and live a sober, godly life. Nothing is impossible for God.
The lady sitting next to him suddenly jumped up just before Communion was served. Obviously disturbed by something, she talked to the doorman, pointing to the drunken man. She walked back to her chair, grabbed her handbag, and left church. My friend, the doorman, came and stood next to me with his head down. I could see he was upset by what the lady said about the drunken man being there.
The well-known question, “What would Jesus do?” came up in my heart. I put my hand around the doorman’s shoulder and whispered in his ear, “In difficult situations I always ask myself, ‘What would Jesus have done in love, in this situation?‘ I think you made the right decision in letting this man inside.”
Standing again, looking at this poor, lost, rejected, dirty, smelly, drunken man, I knew Jesus saw him differently. He saw him as a child of His that needs love and acceptance. I prayed again in my heart that God would help me to love others and help me to see them as He sees them—to understand that to love others is a command and not a choice.