Written by Angelica Scribnock
In Blackpool, England, my four-person outreach team hurried along the dimly lit cobblestone streets to a prayer meeting. Little did I know the impact that night would have on me.
Chilling wind tunnelled through the streets. Hands stuffed in my coat pockets, I rushed along with my team. It was my first time in Blackpool, and I assumed the city would be livelier. Maybe the gloomy winter night led most to stay home.
We passed a man, mid-thirties, standing half bent over. Under the influence of drugs, he looked rugged and distant from reality. My leader commented about the corruption of this world and a peer snapped a photo of the disoriented man. That agitated me. This man is hurting, and we walk by condemning and mocking him.
After walking a block, my team realized we were going the wrong way and returned to where the man was. He now lay crumpled on the ground in the middle of the lifeless street. A young couple crouched by him. The young man held him while the lady called the medics on her phone. The woman’s eyes flashed back and forth between street signs and the face of the trembling stranger at her feet.
Unalarmed, my group continued our rushed pace to the church up ahead. I staggered at the back, my stomach knotted. That man was someone’s son, maybe a brother or friend. And we were only occupied by arriving at a prayer meeting on time?
Looking back at the commotion while my feet carried me away, I thought of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. Who loved this neighbour as themself? Who showed mercy?
Not me. Not my team. We passed by twice.
While we were occupied by acting as good Christians, the young couple lived out the commandment of loving their neighbour as themselves. They showed mercy and obeyed Jesus’ instruction to go and do likewise.
When we arrived at the church, light beamed from within—a sign of warmth away from the nipping cold. But I noticed something in the shadows to the side of the building. Huddled in the side doorway, two homeless people clutched their sleeping bags around them as they slept.
Anger, disgust, and shame weighed upon me as my team received a warm welcome and peeled off our coats. Everything irritated me: my team’s procession to the front row, all of the smiling faces, and the preacher’s attempt at a joke.
How many of us in the western Church do what my team did that night without realizing it? We focus on our faith, whether we are acting spiritual enough, and how others perceive us. It’s easy to fall into a routine of religious rituals instead of remembering to love those around us.
But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:2, “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”
I couldn’t stop thinking about the two homeless people in the damp doorway a few feet to my left, on the other side of the stone wall. I imagined the medics arriving at the collapsed man.
How was I supposed to pray?
But I did. I let out all of my anger in silent whispers and prayed with a broken heart, echoing lines from two worship songs.
“Break my heart for what breaks yours” (Hillsong) and “Give me your eyes for just one second” (Brandon Heath). Now I understood what it meant to sing those lyrics.
When I pay attention to those around me, my prayers become focused on others’ needs and ways to show love instead of fixating on my own to-do list. But in addition to praying for them, I also need to act. In Luke 6:46 Jesus says, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”
What I learned from that night is that God can use anyone to show His love. It doesn’t have to be me, but it can be. I am not perfect, but I want to show God’s love and pray with open eyes.