It was unusually cold in Los Angeles that night as we exited the Staples Center. It was getting late, but we were there to see our friend, Tarik Black, who plays for the Houston Rockets, and who was in town just briefly as his team played the Los Angeles Clippers. Nearly the entire arena had already cleared out by the time Tarik joined us from the locker room, and there were only a handful of people lingering on the cold streets outside. It was a short walk from the arena to our restaurant.
While we walked, I pulled out my phone to capture a tiny piece of this moment (after all, it's not every day that you go to dinner with an NBA player, and I knew it would probably get me a little more "cool cred" from my kids, who think their dad is helplessly uncool). Soon after, though, we were met with a scene that was all too common. A homeless woman approached us asking for money.
I almost never have cash anymore (I am often in awe of the way my mother always has cash in her wallet—I can't remember the last time I paid for something with cash!), and tonight was no different. When we told the woman we didn't have anything, she responded in a way I had never seen before. She kind of hung her head and said, "That's okay, I need Jesus more than I need money anyway."
We all stopped and turned. It was like kingdom sharks smelling blood in the water. Tarik said, "Lady, you just said the right thing." And that's when I pulled my phone out again to start filming.
The woman had just gotten a diagnosis of ovarian cancer, so we prayed for healing, then asked if we could get her something to eat. We asked her to walk a little way with us so we could get her something, but by the time we reached the restaurant, Judith (her name) had pretty much won our hearts. She was a believer, and throughout the evening, she often quoted Scripture better than we did! We got her all the food she could eat and also loaded her up with more that she could take back to her tent camp for her friends.
But perhaps the most interesting part for me was when Judith finally learned that Tarik was an NBA player. There was a very real, very funny shift that took place when she learned that the super tall black man who had just prayed for healing for her body was someone of cultural significance. She hugged him, kissed his hand repeatedly and wouldn't let go of him for about 10 minutes. I've never seen anyone so tickled to meet someone before, but Judith was smitten. This was officially the coolest thing that had happened to her in a long time.
Over dinner, we got to know her more, and I think the thing that blessed her more than anything was once again simply being treated like a real human being—someone of worth and not someone to be pitied or ignored. But afterwards, I kept thinking about that moment when Judith realized that the man she had just met was more "important" than she realized.
What I'd just witnessed was two kingdoms—the kingdom of God and the world's cultural kingdom—crashing into one another. In God's kingdom, there is no hierarchy (unless you want to say that the hierarchy is actually reversed, with the first being last, and the last first), and titles and status simply fade away to make way for the King of kings. But in the world's system, someone with money or fame is elevated to the front of the line, where the rest of us clamor to see and interact with them.
You can't blame the world for being this way. Jesus, in his own way, was kind of a rock star himself when he entered a town—his reputation preceding him—and often the disciples would fear that he'd be crushed by the mob trying to see him. But in his more personal moments, he modeled for us what it was to love someone well. He wasn't supposed to even speak to the woman at the well, for instance, yet by the end of one conversation she was converting her entire village. He constantly set aside his kingship, his status, to become a servant.
As fun as it was to watch Judith lose her mind when she learned who Tarik was, by far my favorite moment of the evening was seeing the kingdom of God trump the kingdom of this world. That moment when a man—not an NBA player, but just a man in love with Jesus—prayed for his sister on the cold streets of LA, and when Judith received the blessing of a Father from a man who in that moment was just like anyone else.
Just, you know, a little bit taller.
Darren Wilson is the Founder and CEO of WP Films and the creator of various films, including Finger of God, Father of Lights, and Holy Ghost. His newest TV series, Adventures With God, can be seen on various Christian networks around the world and purchased at his website: wpfilm.com, as well as his newest book, God Adventures.
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