The Least of These

Editor’s note: Originally posted on Freedom and Fashion.

Last month, a friend of mine showed me what it meant to love. As we went on an adventure driving on the streets of Hollywood at 9pm, he said to our friend who was driving, “Okay, you guys go find parking while Gio and I are going to talk to that guy over there.” While our friends drove away, I found myself standing in the cold to meet “that guy over there” just blocks away from the corner of Hollywood and Vine. It turns out “that guy over there” was a man living on the streets. My friend saw him sitting and shivering with only a black hoodie and a small raggedy backpack. With a large smile, my friend greeted “that guy over there” and said, “Hello! Is it okay if we talked?”

I noticed the man’s eyes examining my friend and then examining me, perhaps wondering why two twenty-something-year-olds wanted to talk to him. And after concluding that we weren’t out to hurt him, the man reached out his hand and said, “Sure thing, son. Good to meet you. My name is Joe.” And so without knowing it, my friend volunteered me to join in this conversation with Joe while our friends found parking. I rolled my eyes in disbelief at how the night was turning, wondering when we would go on our way and when our adventure would start. After all, this wasn’t exactly what I imagined a hang out with friends would look like.

Ten minutes went by. Then, twenty minutes went by as we stood there with Joe seeing our breaths in the air with every exhale. My friend persisted to talk with Joe, to get to know him. Of course, I chimed in from time to time, to add to this conversation about Joe’s philosophy on life, all while wondering why our friends weren’t looking for us by now. But my friend couldn’t care less. He was focused on Joe and Joe’s story.

My friend listened intently and patiently as Joe explained his nomadic lifestyle, how he saw God in everything, how the government had been corrupting the minds of the youth by allowing Hollywood to go on with their vampire and werewolf crap, to even suggesting a particular café that we might enjoy if we were visiting Venice Beach and liked jazz music. Eventually, our friends found us standing on the corner of the same street, right where they left us. And instead of rescuing us to go on this adventure in Hollywood, they too joined in the conversation.

About fifteen minutes later, a security guard was making his rounds and politely asked us to stop loitering and leave. As we started to leave, I saw my friend who started this whole conversation slip Joe some money and thanked him. My friend didn’t just want to give Joe money—he wanted to be a friend to Joe. My friend treated him with respect, treating him as a human being rather than a social pariah.

Even though the entire conversation with Joe took fifty minutes long, I learned something quite valuable. Ladies and gentleman, I, Giovanny, was a selfish person. Wanting a night of fun with friends, I neglected the Gospel that I had been learning as a seminary student, the Gospel in which Jesus said to “love one another as [he had] loved [us]” (John 13:34-35). It wasn’t so long ago that during my undergraduate years at UCLA,  I would join Cru (my college fellowship) and Alpha Gamma Omega (my fraternity) on an outing to Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade to seek out people like Joe every Tuesday night. We’d make them a meal, give them some warm articles of clothing, and just sit with them, listening, having a conversation. This is the Gospel in action, and I needed my friend to remind me that night in Hollywood.

If I truly believed in the Gospel—the teachings and the words of Jesus Christ, then I was neglecting an important aspect of it that night. It is through helping others and putting others before myself, that I was serving God. In Matthew 25:37-40, it says:

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

Through my friend’s eyes, I was reminded about why faith-based groups were often the first ones on the scene when a natural disaster hits a country, or why many exist in other impoverished countries, or why many were out there on the streets providing Joe food, a blanket, and sometimes, even shelter. As a follower of Christ, my friend was taking the Gospel seriously, not as mere ancient words designed to make him feel better, but words meant to be lived out in action. This is one way faith is making a social impact. Faith is taken to the streets to help even “the least of these.” This is God’s love in action.

At the Freedom and Fashion Collective Conference, you’ll be hearing how faith-based groups are taking that same love in action. Martin Garcia (World Vision), Kelli Bradley (Dream Center), Mark Fisher (Red Window Project), and Jocelyn White (International Justice Mission) will discuss how faith-based groups are making a positive social impact, not only in the community around them, but to the rest of the world.

Purchase tickets to the Collective Conference. Use the Early Bird code “cc13early” to save.

faithandsocialimpact

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