One of the unappreciated consequences of growing older is that I find it increasingly difficult to sleep away from my own bed. When I was younger I could sleep anywhere, anytime (and often did). As a result, when we travel I often find myself waking up early – whether I want to or not. Such was the case on our family’s trip to New Orleans this summer. Much to my displeasure, I was awake at 6:00 in the morning. Since I couldn’t go back to sleep and I didn’t want to wake the boys (they can still sleep anywhere) I decided to wander around the French Quarter as the city was beginning to come to life.
While I have always appreciated the architecture of the Quarter, it was the people of the early morning that captured my attention. Rarely have I had the opportunity to mingle with a more diverse cross section of society. As one who has never been particularly fond of exercising in the morning, I was amazed at the number of joggers who were scurrying through the Quarter at the break of dawn. They moved in sharp contrast to the homeless who lay motionless, clinging to whatever uncomfortable sleep they were able to achieve on their cardboard beds and concrete pillows.
Added to the mix was the multitude of workers who sustain the service industry that is the lifeblood of New Orleans. These anonymous hotel and restaurant employees were hard at work cleaning up from the night before and making preparations for the day ahead. Standing at a corner, I watched an aproned man hosing down the sidewalk in front the café where he worked. Another man, in a white shirt and tie, drove by in his Mercedes; heading towards the Central Business District. A few blocks away was a team of sanitation workers armed with pressure sprayers and disinfectant methodically moved down the street erasing the last remnants of the weekend’s festivities.
While contemplating the socio-economic diversity revealed in the early morning Quarter, I was struck by the reality that the man in the Mercedes was really no different than the one sleeping in the doorway. While divided by what they possessed, they were united in what they needed. It was need that made everyone equal – the homeless, the executive, the jogger, the service worker and yes, even the visiting pastor who could not sleep.
No matter how rich or poor, Scripture reminds us that we have all sinned against a holy God. That sin has created an unbridgeable chasm between us and our Creator. We can’t earn enough money, impress enough people or do enough good deeds to ever span this gap to God. Whether we drive a luxury car to our executive level job or spend our morning sleeping in doorways, we are all hopelessly lost.
It is for that reason that Christ came to us. Through His substitutionary death He paid the debt for our sin and bridged the gap between us and God. In doing so He proved God’s love for us. He didn’t do it because we earned it, but because we needed it – we all needed it.
Standing there on Bienville Street, surrounded by this diverse cross section of society that I was reminded that no matter who we are, or even who we think we are, we all share the same need. It was because of that need God gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. Amen.
In His Service,