Lives on the Line – A Reprise

He caught my eye as he walked past my seat on the train. Dressed in dark, drab clothing, with sunken cheekbones and a weather-worn face, he held the air of one who had nowhere to go. He sank into the seat behind me and leaned heavily against the window.

He will be here til the end of the line, I thought. Then he will probably get off the train in order to re-board it and ride it back into the city. This is his bedroom.

I found my thoughts starting to wander. I brainstormed what I could give him. I had not much in my wallet. I had a little food in my bag, leftovers from my day. It was not much – a bag of chocolate – but I began thinking about offering it to the homeless man sleeping behind me.

I felt a familiar tug-of-war commence.

I felt a familiar tug-of-war commence.

“It’s not your problem,” the safe voice of reasoning assured me. “You do not have to rescue every homeless person you see. Don’t feel obligated to give him anything.”

“God, what do you think?” I ventured.

He didn’t really say anything, but annoyingly, the words of my own song, Lives on the Line, came back to me:

“Our blind eyes put us to shame,
Our deaf ears bring down His name;
A certain leap of faith is required.

“Mere pity is not enough;
It’s not the same thing as love.
We’ve gotta lay our lives on the line.”

”We’ve gotta lay our lives on the line.”

“Ok God,” I said, my heart pounding, “How exactly do I do this? Do I offer it to him? Do I do it now, or wait til I get off? What if he gets off before me? Can I just leave the bag of chocolate on the seat next to him?”

Eventually, I worked out that my homeless friend was staying til the end of the line, as I had suspected. As I got myself together to disembark, I turned around and tried to get his attention. This was an interesting challenge as he had his eyes closed and may well have been sound asleep.

”Excuse me,” I tried, with no result.

For a moment I considered just leaving him. I was already forming the argument in my mind. “He didn’t hear me. What could I do?”

But I could not walk away. I was committed. So I took a tiny risk. I prodded him on the arm.

“Sir,” I said apologetically, “Do you want some tucker? Are you hungry?”

“No, no” he said, leaning away from me. I decided not to push it further. But as I walked away, I felt the tug-of-war lift. “Thanks,” God seemed to whisper, “for trying.”

It was then I remembered that my homeless friend was like Christ. “Whatever you do for the least of these,” Jesus once told his disciples, “you do for me.” I was trying to be like Christ to him, but it turned out he had been like Christ to me.

He had been like Christ to me.

There is a bonus to this story. As I got off the train and trudged along the platform, a young girl caught up with me. I recognised her as a fellow passenger from my carriage.

“That was really great what you did,” she told me. “Thanks for trying to help that man. It is so encouraging to know there are still people like you in the world.”

I had not told this young girl I was a Christian. I had not mentioned anything about God. But somehow my actions had spoken louder than any words I could have used.

What would you have done in this situation? Would you have acted differently? Share your story – let’s have a countercultural conversation.

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