Last month I met two thieves on the Tube.
They were counting the money from a Louis Vuitton clutch bag, and not even thinking, I turned to the two boys in their hooded tracksuits and said: “Oh, how funny. Why did you choose to buy that handbag?”
They looked at me, stupefied. Then the boy opposite started laughing at me and not with me – and the penny dropped.
It was not their elegant purse they were holding. It was not their money they were counting. It was not my day to grasp what was happening beside me.
My first instinct was to curl up, protect my purse and laptop, draw a line of race and class, sit in quiet judgement and haughty pity, and spend the rest of my Tube ride thanking God I’m ‘not like them’.
Earlier that same week, I had read a beautiful reminder on Twitter: we who say the Gospel is for sinners must recognize first how much we need it for ourselves. Before I could react, in that split second, Jesus said:
“Love them.” That’s all.
So for the next 20 minutes, on a London Underground train, we talked about life, our biggest dreams, and my ling, who invited many to the best party ever, but found that they made excuses about why they couldn’t come. This king sent His servants to find the forgotten and lost and perhaps the thieves, and they were welcomed with love. Luke 14:16-24.
As we spoke, it was as though these words and this story was alive. I was reminded yet again that the old words of Scripture hold new life. They break into our hearts, unsettle our souls and hold echoes of an upside-down kingdom, where the king became a servant, where the thieves are invited to the banquet, where the self-righteous like me are reminded: the Gospel is for all of us. I was broken and a beggar; I took refuge in a God who spent His dying moments with two thieves and spoke to them about a life that was bigger than the moment He found them in. And He welcomes me with His love every day.
I would love to end this story with a deeply significant moment where we prayed together, where these two young men found that life and love in Christ, and where their lives were fully changed. None of those things happened that night on that train. My stop was announced; I shook their hands, looked them in the eyes and said: “Jesus loves you,” as I got off the Tube.
I know they heard the words of the gospel, but it may be that I was the one who walked away changed and reminded that the deep love of Christ is for all and for me.