It was a crisp, Thursday afternoon in Dallas, Texas, in the fall of 1983. A group of us from Criswell Bible College were gathered on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Dallas. We were doing what we did every Thursday afternoon, sharing our faith with anyone who would listen. Most of the people just rolled their eyes and kept on walking, and we would keep on preaching. But, this would be a different Thursday. This Thursday, it would be my life that would be profoundly changed.
As the team was sharing with several people, all of whom looked to be well off, I noticed a woman digging through a trash can in search of food. Her clothes were filthy, and she smelled. I remember thinking, “Why is no one sharing with this poor woman?” I turned to our evangelism professor, Dr. Allen Street, and in a tone of self-righteousness, voiced my concern. His reply wasn’t what I expected; “Mr. Wilder,” he said, “I see that you are available.” His rebuke awakened me to the reality of my own prejudice. He continued by saying, “I suggest that you go and share with her!” Me and my big mouth, I thought. I reluctantly walked over to her, almost sickened by the smell. I tapped her on the shoulder, and she turned to face me. I told her who I was and that God loved her. She responded as she returned to digging through the trash can, “Don’t bother, I’ve heard it all before.”
Before I realized what I was doing, I asked if I could give her a hug? She looked at me for a moment and said, “if you would like.” So I did, and as I hugged her – I promise you – I could no longer smell the offensive odor. We hugged for a few moments, and then, I stepped back and looked at her. I saw tears streaming down her face. She told me that it had been years since anyone had hugged her. I said to her, God really does love you, and she said, maybe so. I said to her, He does. God loves you very much.
I learned that day that God’s love must be enfleshed by those who know Him. It’s not enough to simply speak of it. We must embody it! I want to encourage all of us to embody God’s love towards others, even when it is difficult. Remember, it is His spirit that empowers us to love.
SO STOP HOLDING BACK, LET GO, AND START LOVING!