Walt Wangerin told about a young woman who lived across the street from the church he preached for. She was young, but she looked like she was 30-40 years old, with sunken cheeks. She had a child that played up and down the sidewalk out in front of the house, a shotgun style house across from the church. The woman’s name was Marie. Marie would sit out front, rocking on a tubular chair. Wangerin noticed that Marie would let men into the house at night. One after another. Wangerin knew what was happening. That Marie was selling herself to these men.
One night, Wangerin was sitting in the church building writing his sermon on love, when he heard a sound coming from somewhere in the building. “Pshhh, pshhh.” He heard it again the next night. He thought, what is that? So he went creeping into the darkness of the church. He crawled down into boiler room and checked the water pipes. But he couldn’t find a water leak anywhere.
Suddenly, he had an inspiration. He looked out the window and saw someone standing under a dawn-to-dusk lamp. It was Marie. She was taking water from the church, kneeling and emptying water from the church spigot into a plastic milk jug. And she hadn’t asked! Wangerin knew the reason she needed water—she hadn’t paid her utility bill and the water and been cut off.
Wangerin thought, what am I going to do with Marie? Then he heard the sound again, “Pshhh.” So he went back to the window and again saw someone taking water from the church. But this time it wasn’t Marie. It was one of her johns. The man was bent over the church spigot and stealing water from the church. Wangerin was angry.
So he decided what to do. He had a mental picture of the church, leaning over on its side. Like a sow, with all the neighborhood piglets feeding on the church. He made his way down into the boiler room and found the valve to the water. And he shut off the valve. He turned off the water. Soon, he thought regretfully to himself, “I took a little stab of delight in making sure that Marie didn’t pilfer water from the church.”
Later, he said, it was as if God spoke to me and said, “Don’t you remember what I sent you to do? I sent you to make an impact on the world. And instead of showing concern for people in the world, you made the decision to shut the world out. You had an impact on the world alright, but not the kind of impact I want you to have! You might have spoken to Marie about her circumstances, but instead, you shut her out!”
What is our attitude toward the world? Do we have a sense of smug satisfaction as we shut out the world? Or do we seek to minister to broken and hurting people?