Once upon a time in college, God invited me and some friends to prayer walk a neighborhood. We started by just walking the street once a week, praying for the homes and the people we encountered. Sometimes we took rakes with us in the fall or cards or cookies or carols on special occasions. We played with the kids and prayed for the sad, sick, grieving, and lonely. We didn’t see 52 churches born, just a few messy friendships formed, lots of service and love poured out (when they didn’t receive it, Jesus did!), many hours of prayer, a drug dealer moving on, and a man eventually kicking his drug addiction by the grace of God. It was an adventure in learning more of the Lord’s heart.
Probably the biggest lesson in those days for me was learning to love the bad guys. How do you love the man who beats his children, tears a screen door off the hinges in a rage, and pulls his son close for a cuddle, only to whisper drunk in his ear, “You ain’t nothing, and you ain’t neva gonna be nothing but a poor mother @#$%^&.” How do you love a man like that? When you know the heart of God, you know that God radically loves even the ones that are the most abusive. It’s a miracle for humans to love the unlovely, but it’s God’s nature.
When God’s nature started pushing out my natural, human responses to this man, I began to realize I really cared for him and believed God could change him. Practical acts of love for him began flowing naturally as we responded to gentle promptings of the Holy Spirit, “Go knock on his door.” “Take him a fried chicken meal.” “Drop by and check on the kids.” “Share your potatoes with him.” “Stop by and invite his kids to church again. He’ll soften in time.”
The day after I graduated from college, he sent his kids to church for the first time. That afternoon, we all sat together on the front stoop of his house and said awkward goodbyes – not knowing when we’d see each other again. I was able to visit them six months after that – and six months after that. And, I guess it shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did, when I went back to visit him last. He was sober and clear-eyed, and he thanked me for being a friend – for caring about his kids – for challenging him on his behavior, but always coming back. Then, he started praising Jesus that he was two years clean.
Two years clean. That, friends, is a story of Jesus at work – transforming the world.
“…Behold, I make all things new…” -Revelation 21:5