Where Love Is, God Is

I was lining up in the service station waiting to pay for my fuel. Deep in thought about the things I needed to get done that afternoon, hoping the kids hadn’t turned the radio up to extreme decibels that would damage their hearing. It was taking longer than it should, so I looked to the front of the line and realised that the gentleman trying to pay for his fuel had his payment declined. While he fumbled with his phone to transfer funds or call for help, the lady behind him stepped forward and said to the cashier and gentlemen “let me pay for your fuel, please”. It was a beautiful moment.

I’m not sure if the lady was a Christian or not. But it reminded me of a recent Bible study we read with our children. Reading from Matthew chapter twenty-five where Jesus teaches his disciples that whatever they do for another, they do for him. “And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’” (Matthew 25:40). To help children understand what this looks like in action, the devotion included a re-told version of a beautiful short story, written by Leo Tolstoy, called “Where Love Is, God Is”.

This story is about a shoemaker named Martin. His shop was in a basement, and through one window, he could see the feet of everyone walking by on the street. One night he has two dreams where he hears a voice saying: “Martin! Look tomorrow on the street! I am coming!” Martin believes it was Jesus telling him that He was coming.

So the next day, he looks out the window at the feet going by, waiting to see the shoes of Jesus. Instead, he sees an old man named Stepanich, who runs a shop next door. Stepanich tries to shovel the snow from the sidewalk, but he is frail and cold. Martin brews him a pot of tea and invites him inside. Stepanich stays a while and then goes on his way.

Martin looks out the window for Jesus again. A woman with her baby comes by. The baby cries from the cold. Martin invites them in, feeds them, and gives the woman his coat to keep them warm. The woman expresses her thanks and leaves.

Martin goes back to his window. Still, he doesn’t see Jesus. But he does see a woman tussling with a young boy who has just stolen one of her apples. Martin goes out and makes peace between them. Then he pays the woman for the apple so that the apologetic boy can keep it. The woman and the boy go on their way.

Night-time comes, and Martin is disappointed he hasn’t seen Jesus. But then he hears voices coming form the corner of the room. “Martin. Do you recognise me?” Martin says, “Who?”

One by one, Stepanich, the mother, the able seller, and the thief step out, saying. “It is I.” All of them smile and then vanish.

Martin reaches for his Bible and reads, “I was hungry and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in… Whatever you did for one of the least (important) of these brothers and sister of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:35, 40).

Whether it is an opportunity to pay for someone’s fuel, to help our neighbour with their garden, to spend time with someone who is unwell or lonely, to give towards a charity or someone in need, we all have opportunities to love Jesus by loving others. Our capacities might differ, but the call to love and serve others is the same. Do what you can with what you’ve been given and remember the next time you have opportunity to serve another, you are doing it for Jesus.