[forthright] "A Certain Beggar"

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From: "Forthright Magazine" <forthrightmag@...>
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 21:51:35 -0300
Forthright Magazine
http://www.forthright.net
Straight to the Cross


COLUMN: Field Notes

"A Certain Beggar"
by Michael E. Brooks

"But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of
sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed
with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. 
Moreover, the dogs came and licked his sores" (Luke
16:20-21).

Khulna Bible College is situated about eight
kilometers away from the city of Khulna, Bangladesh,
on the other side of the Rupsha river. Although a
bridge is now near completion which will give us
access to the city, until it is opened the only way
across the river is by ferry. This ferry is used by
thousands each day, and it is therefore a favored
location for beggars. Every crossing is accompanied by
the cries of the beggars walking or crawling through
the crowd, and their persistent pecking on the windows
of cars, trucks and vans.

Ashim is a blind man who has ridden the ferry most
days since at least the early 1990's (when I began
visiting Bangladesh). His only income is what he
receives from begging there. He is one of many that I
see in my trips to Asia, but Ashim is different
somehow. It is not that he is blind -- there are many
blind people in the countries to which I travel. It is
not that he is poorer or more needy than others. All
are in desperate condition. It is not that his
affliction is worse than the rest. Many are far more
mangled and incapable than he. Ashim is different
perhaps only to me, and his difference is simply this
-- I know his name. There are several others whom I see
regularly, but have never spoken with or been
introduced to. I recognize their faces, and especially
their afflictions, but I don't identify with them as
much as with Ashim. I look for him when I board the
ferry. I am more likely to give to him than to any
other particular beggar. I ask about him if I don't
see him for a few trips. We have become in a casual,
rather slight way, friends.

Of all the beggars in the Bible, which is your
favorite? There are a number of widows, cripples,
blind persons, lepers and others afflicted to whom we
are introduced. If someone mentions "beggar" in the
context of the Bible, of which one will you first
think? I would guess that with most of us it would be
Lazarus. We know his name. He has become specific to
us. In some small way, we have begun to care about
him, particularly. Of all the narratives that Jesus
left us, it is his story that we want to believe is
historical (real), rather than a parable. We want to
know that Lazarus lived and that he still lives, in
Abraham's bosom.

It is when people and projects become specific and
concrete to us that we really get involved with them.
Unnamed thousands may die in flood or famine and it
causes shock and regret, but only momentarily and on
the surface. But when it affects someone whose name we
know, it cuts more deeply. It is that "certain" beggar
that will cause us to reach in our pockets, take out
more than loose change, and get really involved.

The unique mission of Christianity is to identify
every soul on earth as a "certain" person. "Go into
all the world and preach the gospel to every creature"
(Mark 16:15). "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let
us do good to all" (Galatians 6:10). We are commanded
to love our neighbors, then are told that our
neighbors are all whom we have opportunity to assist
(Luke 10:25-37). As followers of Jesus we must learn
to see others as he did, which is to say as
individuals worthy of our love and attention.

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