I am sitting at the McDonald’s between Wilmore and Nicholasville trying not to weep, and largely failing.
This morning started like many others in our household. We all woke up for the most part happy and began the process of getting ready for school and work. Sarah rises before the rest of us to get ready before the kids get up. Then she wakes the rest of us up and I get ready, while we (mostly Sarah) simultaneously proceed to feed the kids, get them dressed, and ready to go. But, as often happens, somewhere between getting the kids dressed and getting out the door, the smooth mechanism of the Hopper family morning broke down. We had tantrum over getting dressed, tantrums over what toys could be taken to school, delays over which costume jewelry could be found, and frustrations (mostly from me) over what was taking us so long to get going.
As we pulled up to the daycare to drop of our kids, I reflected on the irony that I am planning to talk about Christian Joy and the Peace of Christ at a retreat this weekend, when there was no peace evident in the Hopper home this morning. And then I came to McDonald’s to eat some breakfast and study, and the world closed in around me a little bit…
You see, I am sitting here watching a homeless man on the corner of the street holding a sign that asks for help. He is completely surrounded by cars, full of people who are mostly coming from the restaurant with full bellies and light hearts. Yet he is being wholly ignored.
When I arrived this morning and saw him, I went out and spoke with him briefly. He was startled. I asked him if he had eaten anything yet this morning. He didn’t seem sure. I offered to take him inside with me, buy him breakfast, and chat with him while we eat. He said he would rather not. You see, he just got to his spot. I think he was afraid someone would take it from him…
The tears are coming now. Nobody at McDonald’s seems to notice, or care.
As I sit here, trying to decide what I can give this man with my limited resources today, it occurs to me that maybe I have completely missed the point about the “Peace of Christ”. Maybe it has absolutely nothing to do with temporal peace at all, even the peace that can be found in Christ when we are living through hardship and strife. I mean, I have always considered that there is an eternal element to the phrase. After all, peace comes from the hope that we have in Christ – the hope of resurrection and life lived with God. Yet there is another eternal aspect that I missed before I spoke with the homeless man I am watching now.
The real, abiding peace that comes from living in Christ is not limited to my eternal destination, or that of my family, and it is certainly not limited to temporal peace (even the peace than comes amidst turmoil). I think the aspect of the Peace of Christ that I missed before comes from the realization that when all has come to the fullness of time there will be justice for people like my homeless man.
While there is little temporal comfort that I can bring this man, there is peace in knowing that this was never how things were meant to be. There is peace in knowing that Christ will return to restore all things that have been marred by sin. There is peace in knowing that there is hope to be had at the foot of the Cross, and greater hope still to be found in the empty tomb. There is peace in knowing that God loves my homeless man more than I can fathom.
I am weeping for my homeless man, not because he is homeless, though that is reason enough to mourn in a society as rich as ours. I am weeping for him, because I want him to know this peace. I want to wrap my arms around him and tell him that God loves him, that this isn’t the way things are supposed to be, and that Jesus is coming back to fix things.
Maybe the best thing that I can offer my homeless man this morning is the peace of Christ, the love of Jesus. I think I’ll go do that now…and take him some food, blessed in the name of the One who sees his suffering and Who knows suffering first-hand.
Is it a vain hope, that my homeless man should know Jesus this day? Maybe, but “My hope is built on nothing less. Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.”