The bloody handprint on the church steps took my breath away.
One fall afternoon, I stepped out of the church to go around the corner to the market for a sandwich and soda. Gone no more than ten minutes, I returned to find police, a fire truck and a hysterical woman in front of the church.
The woman had been walking her dogs when she witnessed a man and a woman, disheveled, maybe homeless, approach the church and sit on the front steps. They were acting strange, maybe on drugs or in withdrawal, not an uncommon sight in our neighborhood. The man pulled out a knife, and as the woman screamed, he began cutting himself. The dog walker ran home to call for help and when she returned, they were gone. They left behind blood. Handprints of blood. Pools of blood.
They had never tried to enter the church, didn’t even go all the way up the stairs to the door. The officers and I followed the trail of blood, hoping to find them and get them medical attention, but after two blocks, the blood moved from the concrete sidewalk to the blacktop of the road and disappeared. Years later, I still think of these two people and grieve not being able to know them.
If we are to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, we can not focus only the upper-middle class suburbanites whose giving pays apportionments. Our disciples need to come from all walks of life, which means being in meaningful relationship with people from all walks of life.
Even if I had been in the building when the incident occurred, I probably would not have heard the commotion as my workspace was on the other side of the building and they never knocked or tried to come in. But had I been able to safely connect with these two, welcome them to church, show them the unconditional love of God, help them find the medical and psychological help they probably needed, have the congregation journey with them…imagine the transformation possible. Imagine the ways in which they could bring transformation to others. But this type of relationship requires an emotional investment we are not used to making, and an effort we are not used to making.
How do we go about making disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world? Who should our disciples be? Are our social biases leading us to only make disciples that are in our socio-economic and other relatable spheres? As you prepare your sermon on The Great Commission (Matthew 28: 16-20), define ‘nation’ in a broader sense than geography or religious affiliation, and then encourage your people consider their relationship with them. What ‘nation’ of people is in your backyard, needing to know the tangible love of God through your words, hands and actions?