Christian Devotionals

"Bruce Opened My Eyes"

Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band are back on tour and with it comes a flurry of old Bruce songs on the radio. Yesterday I heard one that really affected me. It was as if I had heard it with new ears. The song was “Streets of Philadelphia.” This was the title soundtrack from the 1993 Academy Award winning movie “Philadelphia.” This film starred Tom Hanks as a secretly gay lawyer battling AIDS and prejudice. The song unleashed a great deal of emotion in me and brought tears to my eyes. Lyrics such as “I was unrecognizable to myself. I saw my reflection in a window I didn’t know my own face … Wastin’ away on the streets of Philadelphia.” Yes AIDS is a devastating and heart wrenching disease. It’s the leprosy of the 21st Century. Yet there was a period in my life – longer than I care to admit – when I was cruel, self-centered and intolerant. I lived out clichéd phrases like “look out for number one” and “there’s the quick and the dead.” I had no sympathy for the downtrodden, especially homosexuals who brought this disease upon themselves. After all, I was young, strong, heterosexual and on the corporate fast track to success. Why should I give these people and this disease a second thought? It wasn’t my problem. It goes without saying that AIDS is an “everybody disease” that affects millions of people globally including blacks, whites, Asians, men, women, children, gays and heterosexuals.

Fast forward to today where I have been a Christian for some time and with the territory, I’ve become more like Christ. I know from all four Gospels that Jesus loved people deeply, all people. He reached out with unconditional love to the downtrodden, the sick, the lame, the demon possessed and the sinner (that covers all of us). If I’m going to be a follower of Jesus, I need to love all people as well. I need to care for the downtrodden and reach out to them in love, Christ’s love. Jesus has been changing me over the years, through all kinds of circumstances, where I now care for all kinds of people. If you’re a Christian, this is not just an option, it’s one of Jesus’ commands.

34"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another
.35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:34-35 (New International Version)

And it’s ironic how the tables have turned for this once self-reliant and “invincible” guy. I’m not so invincible anymore, in fact I have Stage IV cancer. There may come a time when the lyrics of that Springsteen song may ring true for me. My once strong body may become ravaged by this other deadly disease and the harsh chemotherapy treatments that come with it. Based on what I’ve seen of other cancer patients in the chemo clinics and cancer wards, I may one day be like that Tom Hanks’ character who doesn’t even recognize his own face in the window. Wasting away in “clothes that don’t fit me no more.” I’ll spare you further melodrama. This isn’t about seeking pity, it’s about facing reality. All of us will one day die whether it be from AIDS, cancer, a heart attack, a bus or just plain old age. We can’t live smug lives that ignore the pain and suffering of others. We’re all connected and we need to care for people, all people. Jesus changed me and I’m glad that He has. I now feel other people’s pain and heartache. I genuinely care about their wellbeing (both here and hereafter). How about you? If you’ve been on your self-righteous high horse – I’ve been there too – dismount and get involved. Love somebody, even “one of them.” You can support World Vision’s fight against the AIDS pandemic, sponsor a child or just reach out in love to a neighbor who is going through a tough time. When the Holy Spirit prompts you to reach out, do so in obedience.

There’s one more sad line in that Springsteen song that I’ll share, perhaps the saddest line of all: “Ain’t no angel gonna greet me.” How sad it is to face death all alone, without Christ. I cannot fathom battling my battle without Him. If you haven’t asked Jesus into your life – whether you’re healthy or not – now is the time to do so. Because I’ve made Jesus my Savior, the Bible assures me that angels will in fact “greet me” on my passing and usher me into the presence of God (Luke 16:22). It’s not because I’m such a nice guy either, it’s because I’ve put my trust in the One who has defeated sin, disease and death once and for all.

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