His Name was Leon

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Are you hungry?

A few years ago as I was making my way back to the car, I was stopped in the parking lot by a homeless man. He was dressed in soiled clothing and a frayed ball cap, out of breath from running across the lot to flag me down. 

I put my items in my car and leaned against the door while he regained his composure. “What’s up, man?” I asked.

Exasperated, he signaled toward the grocery story on the other side of the parking lot, and with his head down said, “Just get me something. Whatever you think I deserve.”

“Are you hungry?”
“Yes. I haven’t eaten at all today.”
“Well, what would you like? I’m not going to the grocery store though. Your options are all of these restaurants right here.”

He raised his head and looked up wide-eyed in disbelief I was actually offering to buy him a real meal. “Could I… I couldn’t.” He shook his head.

“Whatever you want, man. Seriously. My treat.”

His name was Leon and he wanted a steak burrito bowl from Chipotle. “With guacamole, even though I know it’s extra,” he said. 

Peter and Cornelius

In the book of Acts, there’s a story of when Peter visited the house of a centurion named Cornelius. As soon as Peter walked through the door, Cornelius greeted him and began to worship him.

But Peter quickly made him get up and said, “None of that – I’m a man and only a man, no different from you” (Acts 10:23-26, MSG).

Peter was a Jew and Cornelius was a Gentile. Embedded in each of those social identifiers was an even larger diversity of labels. Each carried with it an understanding of how one should behave and who could interact with who.

But none of that mattered anymore. The Christ message shattered all of the first-century social norms (see Acts 10).

Leon and his friend

When I walked out of Chipotle and handed Leon his meal, he was deep in conversation with another homeless man. Based on their demeanor with one another, I could tell they were friends.

As I walked up to them, Leon opened his arm and gave me a hug. He said, “Matt, I’d like you to meet my friend.” He introduced us and then said to his buddy, “Hey man, have you eaten? I’ve been blessed with this meal and would love to share it with you.”

His friend took him up on his offer and they walked off together.

We’re all like each other

In today’s world, it’s easy to try to adhere to our own social norms, even when they might elevate our own personal standing about others. But like in Peter and Cornelius’ day, the Christ message still shatters our social norms.

My interaction with Leon was such a beautiful reminder that we’re all human. We all crave a warm meal and friendship. From the richest to the poorest, we’re all more alike one another than we are different.

It’s the mystery of Christ, I suppose.


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Matt Snyder is a thirty-something writer and Director of Communications at First Baptist Church of Decatur. You can read more of his writing at matthewlasnyder.com. Download his FREE 7-Day devotional here.