I never intended to be there when a man died. Finding myself on a street corner in downtown Baltimore on a frigid December night, snow falling softly, while inside they killed a man. Yet here I was, watching the impenetrable façade of brick and desperation of the Super Max Penitentiary, just blocks away from the inner harbor and smiling tourists. Meanwhile, buried underground were the condemned men of Maryland’s death row, we above ground bearing witness. God led me there, just as surely as He led me here. Yet in going there I had to pay a price.
I imagine Jesus in today’s Gospel, back in His hometown, the chills running down the spines of people He knew all His life as He read these words: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor.” (Luke 4:18)
Did they know, then, that God was in their midst? Did some wonder about this man, others scoffing at His proclamation, this man about whom everyone whispered when His mother came up pregnant mysteriously all those years ago? Did Jesus ever suffer with the imposter syndrome that seems to stalk us all, nipping our heels the closer we get to doing God’s will?
While He was not afflicted by these doubts, I am. When the voices of those who say they know me best tell me all the reasons why I can’t do the seemingly crazy thing God is clearly asking me to do, how do I respond? Do I accept their rejection, rooted in my identity as God’s child before anyone else’s? Do I shrink back underneath that bushel basket, obscuring my light once more? In my life, I have done both.
Yet, walking the narrow road of the Gospel—bringing good news to the poor, walking with those captive as they are set free, watching with wonder as eyes are opened and those in slavery to sin and injustice are liberated—what is this worth to me? Can I risk the possibility of rejection, humiliation, or worse, to stand in solidarity with those Christ came to save? It’s how I found myself on that freezing street corner in Baltimore while a man who was sentenced to death was killed, and why I walk this road with shaky steps, striving to do the next right thing all the way home.
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Where is Christ leading you to stand? Will you have the courage to follow Him there?
Sarah Babbs is a writer and mother of three, including twin toddlers. She writes about faith, social teaching, and navigating life as a motherless daughter and mother. You can find out more about her here.