Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A man, a cardigan and a verse.

Last night i was in London, waiting for the tube to meet my brother. It was late, i was on my own, and a man came and sat on the bench near me. He demanded that i sat down and talk with him and he stared at me with eyes which i knew i should be scared of - but i felt no fear. I must admit that every logical part of me knew that something wasn't quite right, the things he said were strange and the way he stared right through my eyes should have been disconcerting, but instead i just felt glad to have the opportunity to chat with him. 

A few minutes later he told me he was cold. He had more layers on than me, but i agreed it was a cold night. He then noticed my bag and asked me if i had any jumpers in there that i could give him. About 10 minutes before i had just put my jumper on, but i did have a cardigan in my bag.... so i told him that. I said i was very sorry, but had no jumpers in there, only a thin girls cardigan... i then proceeded to explain that it wouldn't actually fit him (he was a big guy) and it wouldn't keep him warm. What i didn't expect was for him to react as aggressively as he did. He got very passionate and angry with me and started to beg me to give him my cardigan... he kept saying "please, please,.... give it, give it, give it.."

I tried to find out why exactly he wanted it, when it clearly wouldn't fit him and wouldn't keep him warm... but all he did was keep shouting "give it me"...... and i don't know if i did the right thing. I refused to give it to him... because i reasoned that it wouldn't actually be of any use to him. He then started to swear at me and lash out at me with his arms (although he only punched the air in front of my face, he didn't actually hit me)... eventually he stormed off. I watched him on the tube afterwards and he continued to swear at other people and stumbled around aggressively.

I'm not reciting this story to make any kind of point about this guy... or to judge him... in a wierd way i actually just felt a tenderness towards him, i didn't mind what he said to me..... i am simply unsure as to what i should have done. I couldn't stop thinking about the verse in the Bible which says: "Give to everyone who begs from you." - Luke 6.30. And the thing is, that verse doesn't tell you to analyse their motives, or why they want something, it simply says "give." The reason it bothered me more, was that approximately 5 minutes before i met this man i had been chatting with my sister... she told me she had given a homeless man some money even though she wasn't sure if he was going to use it for heroin... and i told her that the Bible doesn't actually tell us to analyse what someone wants something for when they ask, it simply tells us to give.... i said that even when someone hits you in the face, the Bible tells you to let them slap you on the other cheek too.... the point i was making was that EVEN if they do something bad, or use it for something bad, the Bible doesn't tell us to judge that, it just tells us to let them do it... and to give. I had also had a conversation with a good friend of mine at the weekend, in which i told her that i truly believed that if we gave to everyone who asked, like the Bible tells us to, then we will never actually go short ourselves. I said that lots of Christians claim that they can't afford to give to every single person who begs from them, but i really believed that if we did actually do that, God would honour it, and wouldn't let us starve because of it. I still think i believe that. However, i didn't live by that principle when i met that man. I didn't give to him. I analysed the situation, applied logic, and refused his request. Which means, that i was either wrong to do that..... or what i said to both my sister and my friend was wrong.

Maybe it is right to apply discernment to a situation.... maybe it would have been fruitless to give this man my cardigan, which clearly wouldn't fit him..... but then again, maybe he genuinely needed it, for some reason that only God knew. I have no conclusive answer here. All i can say is, maybe i was wrong in the black and white way i answered my friend and sister. Or maybe i was wrong not to give to this man. I guess maybe what matters is being truly willing to give and love, even if it costs you.... and only with-holding if, out of a place of real discernment, you know it would harm them or you really sense God telling you not to....  the thing is, i could have given him my cardigan, even if it wouldn't benefit him... i could have done it out of simple obedience to that Scripture, but a little part of me remembered how much i wear that cardigan, so i didn't want to have to give it him if he wasn't gonna use it.... if i knew he could benefit from it i would have given it, but the thought that it would most likely be a wasted gift, made me not do it...... but the truth is, God doesn't work like that with us... He gives to us all the time, even when we reject his gift..... He doesn't only give to us when He knows it will be received well....He lavishly gives all the time, unlike me. 

I was discussing this with my Mum, and she asked me if i would give someone keys to a car if i knew they wanted to drive off a cliff and kill themselves.... she said you do have to apply discernment in situations. I agree she is right here. But still.... giving this man a girls cardigan probably wouldn't have really harmed him. Anyway, I don't know what the point of this post is.... i guess i'm just thinking out-loud..........

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