I’ve honestly been confused over the years every time I heard Mother Theresa talk about her work in Calcutta. She would often say “I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, ‘This is hungry Jesus, I must feed Him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene: I must wash Him and tend to Him.’ I serve because I love Jesus.”
This always sounded so beautiful but made little sense to me. Even though I was a pastor who probably should have known what it was that she was talking about, I didn’t really get it. How could she say she saw Jesus in people, especially very broken people? Here’s what God’s been teaching me:
- First, God says a few surprising things about Himself in scripture – “Don’t take advantage of the poor just because you can; don’t take advantage of those who stand helpless in court. The Lord will argue their case for them and threaten the life of anyone who threatens theirs.” Proverbs 22:22-23 and “I, the Lord, command you to do what is just and right. Protect the person who is being cheated from the one who is cheating him. Do not ill-treat or oppress foreigners, orphans, or widows; and do not kill innocent people in this holy place.” Jeremiah 22:3 Apparently my God stands with and “argues the case” of the poor and the oppressed.
- Second, Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa observed something very similar to Mother Theresa but from a different angle as a result of his experience of Apartheid. He often said, “Almost always you can bet your bottom dollar that God is going to be on the side of the one who is being clobbered. “
- Finally I’ve been serving with people in my church and people in my community by distributing fresh fruits and vegetables, in partnership with 2nd Harvest Food Bank, to alleviate poverty and poor nutrition for many food insecure people in our neighborhood. As I serve the people of my city, and get to know their names and some of their stories, I do actually see Jesus in that I see Jesus deep love, compassion, and identification with people who do not pretend to have life under their control.
If you are a person who loves Jesus, ask yourself this today – Am I in any way at all identifying with and helping people who do not pretend to have life under their control?