He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. Genesis 18:2
Who do I meet in jail? Honestly, I regularly meet those who’re not all that different from me. Most of them have struggled with chemicals, which is exactly what I expected and it’s why I took the job in the first place. There’s another population in jail that I didn’t expect though – the severely mentally ill. These are the individuals with psychotic disorders who inevitably wind up incarcerated because they can’t function normally in the community. Delusional, hallucinating, naked, and smearing feces all over their cell, their minds are so broken that they can’t even carry on a rational conversation. Jail certainly isn’t the best place for them, but they’ve transgressed the law in some way and the waiting list for a mental health facility is months long. So, they wallow in solitary confinement, unable to function in the general population of jail.
While incarcerated, it’s my job to care for them. I’ve often thought though, that if I met them in the community, I’d run the other way. Gross. I don’t want that person to touch me. Frankly, this is an easy population to find detestable. In jail however, I’ve also heard Jesus’ words echoing in my head – As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40). In his parable, Jesus commended those who cared for the poor, the sick, and the imprisoned. He also cursed those who refused to care for the same population. Jesus insisted that how we care for those in need is how we treat him. So, the question is this – Do we recognize the opportunity to love and care for Christ when we see him in our daily lives?
In today’s passage, we read how God and two angels appeared to Abraham. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. Commentators disagree on whether Abraham recognized that it was God. I think he did. God had appeared to Abraham several times previously and I believe they were so intimate that Abraham recognized him instantly. So, Abraham jumped up and began caring for his immediate needs.
Well, if Jesus appeared to me, I’d serve him too. That’s the problem though. If I sit and wait for obvious Jesus, I’ll miss him. Christ said that it is in serving the least among us, that I serve him. Likewise, in rejecting those I find repulsive, I reject Christ. I can claim to be a Christian, but if I insulate myself from those in need, I’m not following Christ. I’m avoiding him.