Self-Sacrificial Love

Freezing rain blew through the mango trees on the night my mom jumped into our old Volkswagen van to search the streets for a homeless man. Our town had a transient homeless population, but this man had stuck around, sleeping behind dumpsters and begging for oranges at the local grocery. After a couple of hours of searching, my mom pulled back into the driveway.

A filthy, frail old Swati man inched out of our van, clutching a plastic bag. He was about eighty, illiterate, covered in lice, and spoke only Swati and Afrikaans. A neighbor rushed over to help with the language barrier. The man warily gave us a name: George. We dubbed him Nkulu George. Nkulu: grandfather.

A product of pre-apartheid South Africa, Nkulu George didn't dare step foot inside our house for fear of legal retribution. Instead, he plunked himself down in the garage on a paint can. We set up a camping cot, brought in a space heater, and set up a lamp, a radio, a camping chair. My mom raided our closets for blankets and clothing. We brought him leftover chicken noodle soup, which he slurped down. Our dogs curled up next to his bed.
Nkulu Geroge lived with us for about two months. Three times a day, my mom would make a tray of food for him—soup, tea, soft bread for his crumbling teeth. He opened up to us a little at a time, teaching my brother and me to shape little boats out of balsa wood. Eventually (through our neighbor) he asked,  "Why? Why are you doing this?"

Why did you come out into the dark storm and find me?
Our neighbor sat down next to him and explained that this was the new South Africa—that the rules of oppression had been dissolved, that Jesus was living in our hearts. Nkulu George looked confused.
"What does that mean?"

My mom, a force of nature with a deep belief that true religion meant looking after those who had no home and no hope, showed him exactly what that meant. She took Nkulu George to the dentist and convinced our local doctor to give him a checkup. She bought him clothes and argued long and hard with the local bank to release Nkulu George's pension to him. She persuaded the local social worker to get him into an assisted living facility, and once he moved in, got down on her knees to scrub his bathroom floor and wash his laundry.
That's what the gospel does.

The gospel goes out and finds people and brings them in (Luke 14:12-24). Homeless and outcasts become family. Beds and food are given to those who have none. Names are restored. Foster kids are taken in. Bellies are fed and we're taught the truth of Scripture and the redeeming love of Jesus. We stuff Easter eggs so that we can have a chance at a life-changing conversation with some lonely Severance citizen.

Maybe scouring the streets for a dishevelled homeless person isn’t something my community needs. But my community does need radical, self-sacrificial love that reaches out and doesn't grow weary of doing good (2 Thessalonians 3:13). From foster care to working with English-language learners at the refugee center to striking up a conversation with an exhausted mom at the park and bringing her a meal that night--this is the practical work of the gospel. It reaches out. It doesn't let people fall through the cracks. It holds its own, never wavering that God called us out of darkness into glorious light.

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