My mentor Barry lives on a farm. He and his wife, Maria, invite people over for dinner at least once a week, sometimes more often than that. When Rachel and I visit the farm, we usually meet someone new — a caricature artist, a 90-year-old master farmer, a nuclear physicist — There are always interesting people at Barry’s farm.
Barry and Maria live according to a verse from the book of 1 Thessalonians:
“So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God, but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.” (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
Barry and Maria are affectionately desirous of people, so they share themselves.
God taught me to share myself when I met Mike Spencer
Charles introduced our college group to Mike one night on the streets. Mike was homeless.
A year before we met him, Mike was on his way to Charlotte, North Carolina to visit his estranged son. He called his son from Knoxville’s Greyhound bus station and his son told him he wasn’t welcome. Mike had a bought a one way ticket. There was no turning back, so he learned to survive on the streets.
When our group met Mike, he greeted us with a toothless smile. He shook all of our hands and memorized our names. Then he insisted that we all hold hands and pray together.
After getting to know Mike, he showed us where he lived — a small tent perched atop a forty-foot concrete wall beneath the overpass. When we wanted to spend time with Mike, we’d stand on the train track and holler his name. He’d emerge from his tent and peer over the edge of the wall, speaking to us like a king to loyal subjects.
Charles called me one night and asked if I wanted to go to the movies
“What movie?” I asked.
“The Departed,” he said. “I thought we could invite Mike.”
We picked up Mike and took him to a friend’s house to shower and shave. The friend gave him a fresh set of clothes. Mike looked like a new man.
We sat in the theater, Mike in the middle with a jumbo popcorn and drink. During the movie, he held out his soda to offer me a sip. I hesitated, because I couldn’t stop picturing his gummy mouth. But something told me to accept his offer, so I took a sip.
At the end of the movie, when Leonardo DiCaprio gets shot in an elevator, Mike screamed, “Whoah! Oh man! No!” Charles and I laughed and shook our heads. We were enjoying the movie as friends, sharing our lives with each other.
Another night, Mike leaned over his towering wall and greeted us.
“I have something to tell you guys,” he yelled down.
“What’s that?” Charles asked.
“I’ve been thinking, I want to live for God, like you do. Your love and friendship has shown me a new way of life. I want to help people who are like me. You know, the homeless. But the devil is after me and I’ve got to resist him. I want to work for Jesus.”
Mike had come to repentance.
Believe me, I take no credit. God was clearly moving in Mike’s life and used our little group to help him along.
I learned that sharing the gospel with someone is good, but sharing the gospel and your life with someone is even better.
Because then you have a friend, someone who is very dear to you.
And that’s a truth worth building a life around.