Jimmy came occasionally to our church parking lot, asking people for money on their way in or out. He often got a small response.
Most of the people he talked to didn’t know what I knew, Jimmy worked his way around many churches. Jimmy worked his way around the city from church parking lot to parking lot. I worked with Jimmie for several years. His pressure increased. And then one day, in a conversation where I asked for some clarity and set some boundaries, Jimmy said, “If you were good Christians, you wouldn’t be this way.”
I said he didn’t get to decide that.
But thinking about Jimmy takes us back to yesterday’s post. We looked at what Jesus said: love, do good, lend, give, bless, offer mercy, withhold judgment. We add qualifiers to those words. So did Jesus. Love your enemies. Do good without expecting return. Lend without expecting repayment. Bless those who curse you. Give without expecting return.
I have a feeling that some of us start with the boundaries with the limits. We think of Jimmy, always coming back for more. We think of lending and figure out how to create a good contract. We think of blessing and we suggest that some people actually deserve cursing.
It feels too extreme, too counter-culture, to imagine boundaryless compassion but Jesus is always counter-culture. And when he was talking to his disciples, he wasn’t looking at countries or companies, he was looking at Peter. And Mary. And Judas. And me. And maybe you.
When he said “love your enemies,” he then went out and did it. Every day.
You know, I think about Jimmie occasionally, though it’s been more than a decade since I last talked with him. I think I’d handle things differently now. Not institutionally. Personally.