She sat on the sidewalk of the busy street corner, five months pregnant and without a place to call home. We sat there with her on the cold concrete, listening to her story of unwarranted eviction and the seizure of all her possessions. She didn’t know how it would work out, but she expressed certainty that she’d have a place to live by the time the baby arrived. If not, the authorities would take her precious child away.
This was a story that seemed worlds away from my own. It was a story of injustice.
I long for everyone, everywhere, to confess Jesus as Lord. I believe that extending this invitation to faith is the primary—but certainly not the entire—calling of the church. To be frank, I can’t fathom how a Jesus-follower can read the Book of Acts and see it any other way. While it’s not perfect, I also believe the Bridge Diagram can be one helpful way of giving a peek into what God has done to reconcile us to himself through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
And yet, there in that moment, this dear woman didn’t need a napkin illustration. She didn’t need a clichéd gospel presentation. She didn’t need to be proselytized. What she needed was a glimpse of the kingdom of God.
So there we sat on the side of the street. We bought her a carton of milk. We looked her in the eye as she shared her heart-wrenching story. We were simply present as the world hustled by, just inches from us. Towards the end of our time, she asked, “Why are you doing this?”
In a stumbling manner, we shared that we were Jesus-followers. We said we figured this was something he would have done. She smiled and said she liked that. Even though she didn’t like “religion,” she thought Jesus was a pretty good guy.
Jesus did not say, “Anyone who has two shirts should preach the gospel to the one who has none.” Rather, he urged us to share our two shirts (Luke 3:11). He commanded us to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. He called us to embody his love in a way that reflects—or points toward—the complete revelation of his love at the cross. The good news of Jesus is not simply a call to personal salvation. It is a warm welcome into a kingdom. It is a kingdom where God is present, where beauty and truth abound. And so we must seek to display this kingdom alongside—or even prior to—our pointing to the king.
I’m not sure what the rest of the story is for our friend on the street. After about 15 minutes, we shared a Subway gift card, got up and awkwardly wished her well. We knew we hadn’t changed her situation in any substantial way. But we had been present and we had cared. Hopefully, this could be one small step forward in her story.
I didn’t share the Bridge Diagram. I didn’t invite her to confess Jesus as Lord. I pray that one day this leap of faith might become a part of her story. I also pray to God that this small and somewhat awkward display of the kingdom of God on that street corner might be a step in that direction. But most of all, I hope she got a glimpse of the Jesus who sits with us, entering our uncertainty and sorrow.
Ryan Jantzi pastors Kingsfield-Zurich Mennonite Church, Ont., where he’s fascinated with exploring the interplay between traditional church and new expressions of mission.