I was briskly walking down a side street near my home. I was supposed to be meeting up with a friend from Morocco to go for lunch. He lived next to our local Masjid (Muslim place of worship) just a few blocks from our apartment. However, he wasn’t yet home so I decided to walk around the block; enjoying the fall weather.
When I turned right past the Masjid, a young man looked up and greeted me excitedly, “Hey Man! How are you?!?! What are you doing in my neighborhood!?!” I was caught off guard, nearly speechless (which isn’t common for me); attempting to remember who in the world this person was that was talking to me. I was desperately wishing in that moment that I possessed some Iron Man like facial recognition software; all my uneducated mind was coming up with was that this guy looked like he was from India, but even that I was not sure of. I played it cool anyways though, with a smile on face I went in for the sideways MAN-hug (the one that ends with 3 pats on the back and a snap), saying “How are you brother?”
Somehow seeing through my disguise of coolness, my friend refreshed my memory by asking why I had never been back to see him at the store he worked at on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I asked which store and he described it. It was barely enough, but it did the trick. I remembered meeting this guy, we had talked for maybe 5 minutes… and it was at least a month ago…
I think I had gotten a tea where he worked and I had greeted him with the Islamic greeting “As-salamu alaykum” which means, May the peace of God rest upon you. During our initial meeting we’d talked some about life and adjusting to the United States and NYC. I had shared that I was a Christian and I would be praying for him and his family as they were still very much in transition having lived in the US for less than a year. But that was it… our entire conversation… 5 minutes.
But here we were, a month or more later and we’d reconnected. Even though we had first met in a totally different part of town and under completely different circumstances, we were now discovering we were neighbors. Our new visit was cut short however as the friend I was supposed to be meeting text me and my new-found friend (who was actually from Bangladesh, not India) was on his way to the Masjid to pray. We exchanged our contact info however and promised to be in touch.
And we have been…
That was 6 months ago, and this past week I entered his home as a guest and was introduced to his family.
I write all of this because this week I connected the dots and realized that where I first met this man was miles from my home and somewhere that life doesn’t often take me. I was simply physically passing through, and it would have been easy to simply pass through emotionally as well. But on this occasion, way back in the late summer of last year I decided to invest instead of just pass through.
I don’t aim to hold myself as a standard to compare ourselves too; and I am the first to admit that I often fall short. However, I think that when we look at the life of Jesus we see that when he was just passing through physically, he didn’t just pass through; he invested.
When Jesus met the woman at the well in John 4 he was headed to Galilee, but because he was willing to invest along the way “Many more became believers”. In Matthew 9 Jesus is on the way to raise a dead girl to life but a sick woman stops Him. Jesus invests and she is healed.
Sometimes we think that when we are just passing through, it’s not so important to shine love, joy and the Gospel of Christ… but it is. Being a Christian shouldn’t just be good for the person who is a Christian, but it should be good for everyone whose life interacts with that Christian as well.
I asked a couple questions and I offered a prayer, but that little bit of investment was remembered. And now, I have a new friend, and he has had opportunity to learn about the freedom of Christ.
If you claim Christ, shine Christ.