We booked a cab ride into Hopkins from our hotel in Belize. It was the closest town so we thought we might enjoy some shopping and walking around to see what sites were available.
“How long would you like to stay?”
We figured a good 2-3 hours would be fine and she said she would arrange for the car to come back for us at that time. We loaded up in the little zippy van and headed to town. But as we got closer, we realized, it didn’t look anything like the resort we were at. Makeshift houses made of tin, old plywood, and tarps lined the street, rundown buildings that hadn’t been touched in years and not a soul in sight. Until we entered the town. Out on the dirt on the side of the road was a tarp being held up by two sticks. It covered a table with some wooden bowls on display. Two or three more similar stands were along the road and the man slowly came to stop in front of a bench. He spoke little English and asked when we wanted him to come back. We all looked at one another and said in unison, maybe 20 minutes.
That 2-3 hours just got real short, real quick.
We had no idea this is what the town would look like. It wasn’t even a town! There was a tiny grocery store, a bench by a “police station” that had a bicycle chained outside (not sure how they handled high speed chases) and a little bar with an outdoor area to eat and drink. There was one little shop, and of course the beach. But the beach was nasty. Trash littered the sand and the water.
And no one spoke good English. They just stared at us.
I was sick to my stomach. What had I gotten us into. Fear came over me. This is not what we thought it would be. No one seemed inviting or helpful. And I was ready to go back to the hotel immediately.
For years, I’ve heard people say about and to foreigners, “Go back to your own country! Learn to speak English!”
But in that moment, I realized how it must feel. To be in a strange land that you thought would be wonderful, only to have the people there treat you horribly because you can’t speak their language. The looks. The fear. The desire to be anywhere but there.
In Exodus 22:21 God says, “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 says, “And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”
Love them as thyself.
Why do we treat people this way? Especially as Christians. Christ calls us to love our neighbor.
“And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:25-29)
Jesus answered with a parable about a man who was attacked by thieves and left for dead. A priest walked by and did nothing. A Levite came by and he too passed by. But a Samaritan, one that was considered less than by society, stopped to help. He went above and beyond by dressing the man’s wounds, getting him a place to stay and paying for anything the man needed.
Jesus then asked the lawyer, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Friends, what are we doing? What is our mission on this earth? God called us to go and share the gospel! But how can we do that in a great way if we can’t even do it in a small way? Why should we expect someone to hear our message when we speak with a tongue full of anger, hatred, and disgust? Why would they want to become a Christian when we act selfishly, hatefully, and don’t follow what our God says?
We don’t even understand what we have. We have the gospel! This is the life giving, soul saving, eternity securing, power of God! We have the power to save! He SAVED us! Who are we to pick and choose who gets this message? Are we okay with sending missionaries to preach the gospel to other countries as long as the foreigners stay there?
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
ALL NATIONS. Whether we go to them or God brings them to us, we are to love them as ourselves.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Today, let us be found busy about our Father’s business. Share the gospel by showing His love and mercy to all. Lord, forgive us. You love them just as you loved me. I was wretched and lost and you still chose to save me. I am no better than any other man. I didn’t deserve your mercy, but you gave it anyway. Help me to do the same.