It was the catch phrase for the movie The Sixth Sense: “I see dead people.” If a Christian aspires to a sixth sense, it should be to see Christ in others. Christ made it clear that we are to treat others as we would treat him. To do that, we need to be able to see Christ in them.
Many times I’ve heard people say that if they live a good life others will see Christ in them and desire to know Jesus. If we desire to have others see Christ in us, then we in turn should strive to see Christ in them. That’s not nearly as easy as it may seem. Seeing Christ in Mother Theresa or the pastor of your church is one thing. Seeing Christ in the person who harasses you at work and makes your life a living Hell is another. It is easier to see Christ in the poor and homeless than it is in the corporate executive who has just bilked his company’s shareholders out of their life’s savings. How is it possible to see Christ in people who have given in to the worst of human desires? Is there anything of Christ in them? What if they are atheists? Can you only see Christ in Christians? Seeing Christ in someone who has gone over to the Dark Side is nigh on impossible. And yet, there was a flickering flame of love in Darth Vader that was never extinguished.
Christ challenges us to take care of his brethren:
Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
So, who are Christ’s brethren? If we strive to live righteously we need to know. They are our brethren, too. Christ responded with compassion to those who were in need, without judging them for their faults.
“He looked beyond my faults and saw my needs”
Can we do less? It is too easy to judge those who are in need as being at fault for their own misfortune. “If he needs money, why doesn’t he work for it instead of asking me?” Christ didn’t see the needy that way. He didn’t blame them for their situation. He reached out to them out of love.
Christ calls us to help others without precondition or judgment. He helped those who were ostracized by society, regardless of the reason for their need or the state of their soul. Christ calsl us to do the same. If we believe that Christ is in all of our brethren, then we can begin to see him in them. Sometimes believing is seeing.
The day was bone chilling cold. Looking out the front room window, the early winter sun promised a warmth it couldn’t deliver. When I stepped through the doorway onto the porch, the bitter north wind hit me, causing me to involuntarily hunch my shoulders and stuff my hands deep into my pockets. It was no day to be outside.
With a turn of the key, my car reluctantly started and a blast of cold air came through the vents. I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment and I knew it would take most of the trip before the car warmed up. As I neared the office, I passed a cemetery and noticed a man walking along the side of the road pushing a super market shopping cart. He was all bundled up against the cold with a long jacket and a scarf tied over the top of the cap on his head. As I was driving by, all I could see of his face was a scruffy beard and long tufts of gray hair sticking out over his jacket collar. The cart was festooned with plastic shopping bags tied to the sides that flapped emptily in the wind that was cutting across the cemetery. From what I could see, the cart appeared to be empty. It looked like he had been out searching for discarded cans along the side of the road hoping to collect enough to buy a modest breakfast with the five cent deposits. Pickings had been slim. Maybe no one wanted to roll down their window on such a cold day to throw away their can.
As I drove by him I could see that he was having difficulty walking. He was using the shopping cart as a walker, supporting his weight. He walked hesitantly taking small steps with one hip hiked up, carefully lifting one leg that seemed to be partially paralyzed. He was making slow progress, and he had to stop every few steps to catch his breath. As I was driving by him, I felt a powerful urge to go back and give him something to help make his day at least a little easier. I pulled over to the side of the road and turned my car around, heading back to where he was struggling along. He'd barely traveled ten feet.
When I approached him he was standing on the other side of the shopping cart. I called out to him, “Excuse me,” and he turned awkwardly to face me. I had expected to see an old man because his beard was gray as were the shocks of hair sticking out above his collar. His face was wind-bitten red and still youthful, but it was his eyes that drew me in. “I just wanted to give you this” I said and handed him the folded ten dollar bill I’d taken from my billfold. He took the bill from my hand and then reached his arm out to me as if he wanted to take my arm. I laid my hand gently on his arm and looked deep into his eyes. For a moment I was completely transfixed. I was overcome with the gratitude that I saw in his eyes and everything else around me faded away. He didn’t speak a word, but his eyes spoke eloquently. I smiled at him and said, “Merry Christmas!” and a warm smile of appreciation spread over his face. As I walked back to the car, I realized that I was breathing very shallowly, trying not to disturb the quiet peace that filled my heart.
Now two weeks later, I struggle to recall the mystery of that moment. I can no longer remember the details of how the man looked, except for his eyes. I felt like it was Jesus who was looking back at me. And he never said a mumbling word.