I sat with two precious Sudanese men this afternoon. One is named John Light. He is a passionate, fiery, young man of God who has planted six churches this year. The second man is older and fatherlike. Tito has seven children and his whole family has managed to live through many harrowing bombardments by enemy armies, years as refugees in the D.R. Congo, and most recently- three years working with the children at Iris Ministries. Sometimes, Tito gets into a certain mood where he begins to tell stories. He tells one after another. His words ring of the wisdom that comes from experience. Today he told a story that reminded me of another story I once heard.
“There was a good man. He loved the God, but he had never seen the God. One day, he went to get some coffee at a shop. Another man was there with his coffee.
‘I am the God,’ said the other man.
‘You are the God?!’ the man said, giving a hug to the God, ‘I have looked for you for many years! I have never seen you until now! Oh, I am so happy!’
‘I would like to visit your home tomorrow,’ said the God.
So, the man hurried home to tell his wife and helper, ‘The God is coming to visit us tomorrow!’
‘Really? The God is coming here?’ they exclaimed.
‘Yes! We must prepare!’
The man went to the market and bought a big ram. At home, it was general house cleaning, fresh paint, and new chairs. The next morning, early, the women prepared a big meal – kisera – very nice – and at seven o’clock, the man sat in a chair in his yard to welcome the God when He came.
Soon, there was a knock at the gate. Ra-ta-ta!
‘Who is there?’ called the man, looking to see if the God had come.
‘I am here,’ responded an old man. The man was dirty, really, too dirty to let into the house. He was walking bent with a stick, wearing bad clothes, very poor.
So, the man was angry, ‘I am expecting an important visitor, and this old man comes to my gate now!’
He told the man to go sit under the lemon tree. Then, he called for his wife to gather some of the meat that had fallen out of the pot. She put it in a container that was not very nice and gave it to the old man. The old man ate the food and left.
The man sat in the chair all day. Ten o’clock – eleven – twelve – all afternoon he sat there. He was becoming angry.
‘Why did the God deceive me! He said he would come to my house!’
When the night came, the food was still there. The man tried to give it to his neighbors, but they had already eaten and did not want it. So the food was just there.
Another day, the man went to get coffee. He saw the man that he recognized as the God, so he hurried to him and said, ‘Why did you deceive me? I waited for you all day, and You never came to my house! I had such a nice welcome and lots of food for you!’
The God said, ‘I did come to your house. Remember? You gave me the shade under the lemon tree and the container of meat. You sat on the other side of the yard. I ate, and I left.’
And so the man felt ashamed. He did not give his best to the God because he didn’t understand that God comes in the face of a poor person.”
Yeah, so it reminds me of Tolstoy’s “Where Love Is, There is God” – which is a great Christmas story to read – snow and Russia and Jesus and all – so read it! – but Tito’s story also reminded me of this passage in Matthew 25:31-46,
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. Before Him will be gathered all of the nations, and He will separate them like sheep and goats. The sheep to His right and the goats to His left…
And He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food. I was thirsty and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’
And they will say to Him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or a stranger or thirsty or naked or sick or in prison and not minister to you?’
Then He will answer them saying, ‘Truly I say to you, what you did not do for the least of these, you did not do it to me.'”
Who is our Lord among you – so hidden that you cannot see Him through their distressing disguise?
As you love Him.