"WorldView Conversation" is an ongoing discussion of global events, issues and trends: What's happening, why is it happening, and how might God be using events for His purposes? How can you get involved and make a positive impact? My twice-monthly WorldView columns will be posted along with other thoughts and observations, but I want to listen to you. What do you think?
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Jesus in disguise
Christmas 1914 on the Western Front witnessed a remarkable event.
Great War, now known as World War I, had begun. Years of unimaginable death and
destruction lay ahead. Yet during the week leading up to Christmas a century
ago, many German and British soldiers put down their weapons, crossed battle
lines and shook hands. The informal “Christmas Truce” brought enemies together
to talk of home, exchange food and cigarettes and engage in impromptu soccer
games. Some even sang hymns and carols together.
the darkest places, Christmas brings light. Enemies make peace. Old hatreds die,
and mercy is born. Christ is glorified.
the first Christmas, God willingly entered enemy territory, disguised as a
helpless child, to make peace with those who had rejected Him over and over
through the ages. Only a few recognized Him when He walked among us. Even fewer
followed Him. He was reviled, betrayed and denied before being put to death on
a Roman cross. Yet He changed everything through His life, death and
you encountered the Lord in disguise?
told his disciples: “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was
thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked,
and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me: I was in prison, and you
came to Me. … Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these
brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me” (Matt. 25:35,36,40b
Scripture passage formed the essential mission strategy of Mother Teresa of
Calcutta, who took Jesus’ words literally. For her, every hungry person, orphan
and refugee was “Jesus in His distressing disguise.” The more distressing the
disguise, the greater the need for our love.
1946 she sensed a “second call” from God to leave her original vocation as a
teacher in a Calcutta convent and go to the streets, which were filled with the
refugees of communal violence, poverty and indifference. One day she stumbled
over a starving woman, eaten with worms, lying in the gutter. She picked up the
woman and took her to a hospital, refusing to leave until someone cared for
her. City authorities eventually gave Mother Teresa an abandoned Hindu hostel,
where she could take the nearly dead to die in the arms of love. Thus was born
her mission to “the poorest of the poor.” In 1950 she founded the Missionaries
of Charity, gradually expanding her ministry to lepers, disaster and war
victims, the unborn — even affluent Westerners afflicted with loneliness and
isolation, which she regarded as the worst diseases of the developed world.
Teresa carefully schooled her missionaries in simple acts, like touching.
train ourselves to be extremely kind and gentle in touch of hand, tone of voice
and in our smile so as to make the mercy of God very real and to induce
[others] to turn to God with real confidence,” she said before her death in
brings me back to my earlier question: Have you ever encountered Jesus in a
“distressing disguise”? How did you treat Him?
He showed up in your town recently, speaking a strange language and carrying
all His possessions in a plastic U.N. refugee bag. Maybe He’s sitting in the
county jail, with no visitors except an overworked public defender. Maybe He’s
working at the convenience store near your house and has nowhere to go for Christmas.
He’s living in an Ebola-stricken area of West Africa, in a refugee camp on the
Syrian border or among a spiritually lost people group never touched by His
modern-day followers, wondering if anyone will come bringing light and hope.
Jesus’ words about visiting Him by visiting others symbolic? Perhaps. But
Mother Teresa’s lovingly practical approach to the “least of them” makes a lot
of sense to me. One thing is for sure: God Himself personally visited us on the
first Christmas in the form of a child, walked with us as a man, died and rose
for us as a Savior.
day in eternity, He we will ask us who we visited in His name.