Father Greg Boyle is simply an amazing man. He is a Jesuit priest whose ministry is in the trenches of gang life in Los Angeles. He, affectionately known as “Father G”, started Homeboy Industries in 1988, by asking one question: “Can we improve the health and safety of our community through jobs and education rather than through suppression and incarceration?” The answer was yes.
In Father G’s book, Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, he makes you cry and laugh out loud with his powerful stories. One I love was when he was trying to get to a speaking engagement across town. Often he will take “homies” who are in the program to tell their stories when he travels around. So he tells of one such event where he grabbed a couple of guys to accompany him. Driving down the road, before getting on the infamous LA highway system, he notices that the car is on “E”. He says with exasperation that he’s going to need to get some gas. The young man sitting shot gun leans over to look at his gauge and says, “Oh, you’re okay, Padre.”
In disbelief, Father G says, “Huh? E means empty!” Then his young friend stares at him in utter disbelief and says, “What? I always thought it meant ‘Enough!’” While Father G loses it in laughter and beckons his young friend back to the world we all reside in, he asks the obvious next question: “If E means “enough’, what did you think “F” could possibly stood for?” Suddenly bashful, the young man eventually, meekly shared, “Finished?”
Isn’t that a hilarious reminder to Christians of how strange we truly are? Following Jesus turns our expectations upside down, nearly every time. When the lawyer wanted to justify himself as righteous - he asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” You see, he wanted to know who was outside the covenant and therefore not worthy of his “religiousness”. He was looking at E and expected “Empty” but Jesus gave him an “Enough” by defining neighbor, not by who they are, but by how we act toward them. What we all thought was an impersonal noun becomes a beautiful verb!
“Who is my neighbor?” – a question that echoes throughout history is answered, once and for all, by Jesus that, in fact, everyone is! Even the hated Samaritans as Jesus answers the lawyers question with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The question then transforms from “who is my neighbor”, to “What is my obligation to them?” Jesus’ answer is to love, love without conditions no matter who the other is for they are God’s child too.
When the world says you have “FULLfilled” your obligations and pats you on the back, Jesus says that without me - you’re “finished”! Instead, “Empty” yourself and find “enough” in Christ.
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but EMPTIED himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross.” – Philippians 2:5-8
I'm a follower of Christ, husband, father, friend, pastor, story teller, asker of questions, inspired by biblical narratives, social justice advocate, sports enthusiast, drinker of over priced coffee and general seeker of God's redemptive possibilities. Yeah, that about covers it. (If you discover something else, let me know!)