Wednesday, October 19, 2011
The Blue Van
I've told this story a number of times before but our church is taking part in the Crop Walk this coming Sunday and I thought that it would be good to share it again. It is one of those moments where I fell short of what I needed to do and I like to come back to it every once in a while to remind me that I need to take action...no matter how small it might seem.
A few years ago I was out walking my dog early one morning and I saw a strange blue van parked on our street. It wasn’t one of the regular cars on our street. There were all these boxes and items stacked in the front seat. It wasn’t an item or two on the front seat, it was filled. With that much stuff in the front seat, there was no way someone could drive. I found it to be very odd. The next morning when I was walking the dog I saw the van again. This time there was a young couple moving all the stuff from the front seat of the van to the back. As I walked back past the other way, he was fidgeting in the back and she was eating a piece of fruit. I suddenly realized they were living in their van.
A couple of nights later they were parked on our street again. It was a cool summer night and we had the windows open to take advantage of the breeze. It must have been around midnight when the couple had a rather loud argument. As I lay in bed looking at the ceiling and listening to homeless people argue I was conflicted between calling the cops so that I could get back to sleep and wondering how I could ultimately help their situation. When I was walking the dog the next morning the woman had obviously been locked out of the van and crying all night. She was still whimpering. After that day I didn’t see the van again for a number of weeks. Finally it was parked again on our street one night. I had been troubled that I had not actively sought to help the couple out and had decided that in the morning I would stop by the van and see if there was any way for me to help. That night the couple again got into a huge fight and this time someone called the police. The man stammered something about just parking there for the night because they ran out of gas. They were gone by the next morning and I never saw that blue van parked on our street again.
I had the opportunity to care for and help this couple. Yet I did nothing. I kept thinking about how the problem is bigger than just bringing them something to drink or eat; bigger than just saying a kind word. But is it really any bigger than that? Yes we may have these same problems on a global level and solving the problems on a global level are going to require us doing things on a grand scale. Yet as followers of Christ, we have the responsibility to not only love God but to love our neighbor. Loving our neighbor means that we need to help those in need even if it means simply bringing someone a glass of water or helping those that we do not necessarily want to help.
Unfortunately I know that this is something that I will struggle with all of my life. Christ told us to make disciples and teach people to obey all of his commands. But correct belief is hollow and empty if it does not actively shape how I live my life. What good is it if I state that God cares personally for people and that he demands that we love one another if I do not take the opportunity to provide a cool glass of water or some refreshing food or even a tank of gas for a hurting couple that are living out of their blue van? What good is a discussion on the difference between justification and sanctification if it does not make a difference in how I act in relationship towards God and towards other people? Being a follower of Christ is not about having everything worked out; it is a journey that requires us to grow in both knowledge and in action.