“My little children let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
Occasionally, we meet someone who truly inspires us to be a better person, a stronger Christian; to live the words that we speak. Recently, my family encountered someone who was that person.
Each week, our family of nine piles into our big old twelve passenger van and travels approximately 120 miles one way to attend services in the church where I was raised. Our van has 220,000+ miles on it, and the uncertainty of how long it will continue to run adds a spark of excitement to our days.
On the Sunday morning in this story, we made it out of the house on time to find that a front tire was low. We stopped at the gas station, added air to it, and hit the road. It had snowed on Saturday, and it seemed we got stuck behind every snow plow on the road. We were about halfway to church when I heard a strange thunk. My first thought was that it was snow or mud falling loose from under the van, but within moments it was clear that we had blown a tire. Not only did the tire blow, but a piece of the tire hit something near the engine, knocking out all systems. I got the van onto the side of the road, but it refused to start.
Mere seconds after I pulled onto the shoulder, an oncoming pickup truck pulled over and the gentleman inside asked if we needed help. Duane explained that I was looking up the information for the insurance’s roadside assistance. The man asked how many kids we had in the van, and when Duane told him, offered to let them all sit in his truck to keep warm, as the temperature outside was below zero. As the kids piled up in the back seat of his truck and I continued my search for the insurance company’s phone number, Duane and the man chatted.
“Where are you headed?” the stranger asked. “To church,” Duane replied. “Why don’t I just drive you there?” he suggested. “I don’t want to mislead you. It’s still a little over an hour’s drive to our church,” Duane told him. “No problem. If we can get you there on time, and deal with your van later, I’d be happy to do that.”
As I climbed into the truck, I said “You, sir, are an angel.” “No angel, just a Jesus freak,” he answered. As we headed down the road, Duane and I discussed the logistics of getting back to the van, getting the van to a shop, and getting all the kids home.
Bill, as we had learned was the man’s name, interrupted. “How much time do we have before church starts? I just live three miles out of the way, and if we have time, I have a 7 passenger SUV that you could take. Use it as long as you like, bring it back when you’re done.” Seriously? He would do that? He assured us that yes, he was serious. He’d be happy to let us borrow it.
When we got to Bill’s house, he asked us to stay in the warm truck while he got the SUV started and warmed up. He started the vehicle, and then returned to the truck. “You know, that’s my working truck. The seats are all down, and the inside is kind of dirty. I’m afraid you’ll get your church clothes messed up. You’re already in this truck, why don’t you just take it? After many thanks, we pulled out of Bill’s drive. As Duane looked down at the gauges, he realized that this truck, that Bill had just handed over to us, was brand new. It only had 2,000 miles on it. I looked over at my oldest son; he had tears running down his cheeks, overwhelmed by the Christian spirit and loving kindness that this man, who had been a complete and total stranger less than thirty minutes prior, had just shown us. Bill’s reasoning? He told Duane that when we invoke Christ’s name, and call ourselves a Christian, we had better be prepared to show radical love for others at some point.
Later, when I mentioned that he hadn’t even asked our names before he handed his truck over to us and we pulled away, he said “I knew Jesus was in the middle of it, so I wasn’t worried.” Bill showed us clearly what it means to love in deed. We can speak about faith and trust, we can speak about Christian love and charity, but do we live it? Do we put into action the radical love that Christ asks of us? Bill did.
Lord, thank you for the example of Christ, who shows us how to treat one another in Christian love. Thank you for those like Bill, who touch our lives and remind us of the joy and peace that come from walking closely in Christ’s footsteps. Help us to search out ways to love in deed and in truth, and not just in word. We ask these things in Christ Jesus’ name, Amen.