Nicknames. Do you ever nickname people with a name that you call them when they’re not around? Well, we had a nickname describing a lady in our church when I was in my later elementary years. We called her “Old Drunk Sarah.” It’s kind of sad for me to think about now, but it was an accurate description of the woman we spoke to every week at church.
She stood taller than my mother and I. She wore plain dresses and church heels that were out of style. She had messy shoulder length dark hair pulled up partially in a clip and wore no make-up and dark glasses. Her eyes were a muted yellow color and she even had a womanly mustache I silently cringed over. Her seat was in the balcony of our church on Sunday morning near the exit. We sat a few rows ahead of her but every Sunday morning my mother greeted her and insisted we greet her with a smile and genuine courtesy also.
Old Drunk Sarah’s breath spoke before we heard her words and the smell of alcohol infiltrated our nostrils. She drank before she came to church every week but it never seemed to bother her consciousness. Her countenance displayed her pleasure that we would make the purposeful effort to speak to her. Mom would talk to her longer than my interest would hold but it wasn’t Sarah who stamped an imprint in my memory as much as it was my mother.
That’s just how my Mom was and is, she loves on people hardly any other church members care for. She was loving the alcoholic woman, being like Christ in loving the sinner. She made her feel welcome and spoke to her husband and son who were often stiff, and may have been embarrassed she came to church that way. Michael and Mike sang in the church choir and were involved even though Sarah just came and sat in the pew most of the time.
Reminiscing today I wonder what ever happened to her family.
So, how do you love the poor and unlovely when they’re so different?
Poor people will remember how you treat them. Prideful people may not remember you, but poor people will know your character by what you do.
The most basic thing we must understand when loving all people, especially those of “low degree” as the Bible calls them, is to see ourselves as equal. Humility brings us to the foot of the cross because every man must come before the cross the same way: with our sin needing to be forgiven.
I don’t know anything about Sarah except she was faithful to attend church Sunday mornings and her love of alcohol (sin) was apparent. I can simply guess that she loved the Lord even though she had a personal problem of runaway indulgences and bondage to the bottle. The difference in her sin was that it was obvious because the smell of it drifted off her breath.
When I go to church my sins are probably not as easy to point out because they’re hidden on the inside. Where someone’s sin may be glaring from their words, thoughts, and actions when it all comes down to it, we are no different. How foolish and prideful we are when we shun people who are displaying baser sorts of sinful practices and give them little of our time and conversation because of their lack monetary income and/or unrighteous life choices.
As a teen at times we were pretty “poor.” I wore cheap Wal-mart shirts to school or the wrong type of shoes to play basketball in. Do you know who I look back on in those years with fondness? The people at church who loved me and treated me like a “normal” person, not a poor person. The people at church who came out to talk to my mom in our junker of a station wagon. The youth pastor who helped move our stuff after my mom was getting a divorce. The church people who drove all the way out to the boonies to pick me up for a church activity. People who valued my soul and person, not my mother’s financial or marriage situation, and even later who didn’t shun me for my bad choices.
Think about the soul, not what you see.
In a sermon a missionary who told a story about a time when he did not want to tell a beggar about Christ at first. The Holy Spirit convicted him about it. Then, when the man came back around the parking lot he witnessed to him and the man was saved! His heart was smitten because he did not want to give a tract to him because of what he looked like. and in his sermon he said to the congregation,
“Jesus doesn’t look at the person, He looks at the soul.”
Jesus knows everything about every person but He still cares about that soul sincerely without reservation. We applaud the “bravery” of missionaries going to foreign fields to share the gospel with unreached people groups and awe at the photos of missionaries in third-world countries building churches from cannibals and others in bondage to witchcraft, etc. Yet, we do not hesitate to blankly walk past any stranger or grab the hand sanitizer when a dirty-looking person shakes our hand during the church service.
We need to have a sensitive heart like the Good Samaritan who reached out to the injured man and did not ignore his wounds and spiritual state. It takes spiritual maturity to look past the strange outward exterior or crude behavior, no matter what it may be, and look into eyes and see a soul who needs Jesus.
Remember where you could be…
Have you spent time lately asking yourself the “what if” questions?
You can go down a waterfall of endless questions asking: “Where would I be if…?” “If God had not worked in my life what would have happened?” “If that person who told me about Christ had passed me by how would my life had been different?” “What if my marriage ended, I ended up in bankruptcy, or my flesh was weak and I chose to live in sin?”
An investment of asking honest questions and seeing how good God has been in your life should make you turn in compassion toward other people and love the poor and unlovely.
Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit
I remember a story of my grandmother in her 60’s who passed a hitchhiker on the road. As she drove by the Holy Spirit nudged her to go back and give him a ride. She turned around and took him where he needed to go and then handed him a church tract and went on her way. She kept it a secret knowing how many people would look down on her risk of picking up a stranger until her pastor unexpectedly dropped it into a sermon. He said he knew someone in the church had been being a blessing to other people in the community and dropped her name out in front of the congregation. She gasped aloud saying, “That was supposed to be a secret!” Apparently the man had contacted the church asking for help and telling the pastor how she had helped him.
My purpose of telling that story is this: You do for the poor and unlovely what God prompts you to do. It won’t be feasible for you to always give out money, physical items, or even sustain a family you know is struggling. My encouragement is to remember when people have helped you in the past. Then, when God has provided the means and the Holy Spirit speaks, do what He wants you to do for that poor and unlovely person.
Our world is full of Old Drunk Sarah’s who come to church and those who don’t. Your heart should be softened by humility to look at their soul and person like Jesus does. Don’t pass by, don’t cringe, be a friend and a real neighbor to them rather than just passing by in your perceived social stigmas. Love them in their poor and unlovely state for you never know how the Savior will transform them into a rich receiver of His blessings and change their soul to be beautiful.