...to the least of these...A Tribute to JR
God created us all with a purpose and a plan in mind. We know this and yet we sometimes treat people like their lives don’t matter. We judge people based on their economic station in life, how well educated they may or may not be, or the addictions they may have...But God...created all of us in His image with the hope that we would choose to yield ourselves to Him and in so doing, we would fulfill the purpose and plan He prepared for us before the foundation of the world.
This I know...even better now.
In December, 2016, just 13 months after the death of my sister, her companion, JR was killed in a car accident. On the outside, JR was rough around the edges, standing over 6 feet tall with a burly appearance some might be afraid of. Like my sister, he had an alcohol addiction and other physical and emotional issues that caused many pieces of his life to be precarious. While I liked JR, I can’t say I really ever thought about the purpose and plan God had for him. While I knew that he had accepted Jesus as his Savior, I never thought about how he might be manifesting his faith. In fact, I sometimes thought to myself, “he sure doesn’t act like it”. But now, as I reflect on those moments born in judgement, I know the same could be said about me.
On the day of the memorial service, people were invited to share their personal stories about JR. Some friends from the local bar shared how he had encouraged them to do the right thing and to stay strong when things weren’t going well. A pastor shared how JR would come by the church every Friday to help pack bags of food for the homeless. I shared my own testimony about the gratitude my family and I felt toward JR for taking such good care of my sister during her illness. How he had spent countless nights in hospital rooms, helping her to care for her personal needs when she got home, and having Friday night dance parties that made her laugh. He was there, with a love and gentleness few would have ever guessed that he possessed, by just looking or talking to him. I sat amazed.
The most powerful story was from a couple who were in some ways everything that JR was not. They were well-educated, professionals, upper middle class, homeowners, with strong ties to their community and family, and as they shared, “had never met anyone without a job or stable place to live”. But then JR showed up on their doorstep asking to do some yard work. They shared how over the ten plus years they had known JR, he had broken bread with them, played with their kids, served as a protector; demonstrating the love of Jesus toward them and their children in such a way that their lives were forever changed. They could hardly speak, through the tears...reflecting on the time that JR took two buses just to get to their home, balloons and stuffed animals in hand, as a present for one of the children’s birthdays. One of the most poignant moments came when they shared that they saw JR as a representation of Jesus on this earth, reminding them that whatever you do for the least of these brothers and sisters, you have done for Christ (Matthew 25:40).
Leaving the service, I knew the Holy Spirit, the teacher and guide, had provided me with so many valuable lessons. Lessons that will remain with me forever. First, never underestimate the power of God to accomplish what His plan and purpose is. Never discount someone because I can’t see how God is working in them. Know that whatever I do to the least of these, I do it for Christ. And finally, I serve a God who knows the beginning from the end, whose thoughts are higher than mine, and I must be confident of this, that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6).