I’ve mentioned before that God is working in my life in the area of serving the poor. Earlier this week I read two blog posts dealing with this issue from different but complimentary perspectives.
Yesterday for house church (our youth ministry does house church every other Sunday evening) we took 25 11th grade students to Woodruff park in downtown Atlanta. We had everyone bring two sack lunches and we had some candy to give out too. The students would go in groups of 3 and find a homeless person to share a meal with. Basically they just asked them if they were hungry and then asked if they could eat a meal with them. The responses of both the students and those they spent time with were great.
The students found out that many of these people were just that…people. They had differing reasons for their situations but they all had a story. The homeless were really surprised that they didn’t just want to give them food, but that the students wanted to talk to them, share a meal with them and pray with them. It was a great trip and we’ll be going back on a more regular basis.
As I’ve previously mentioned on my blog, God is changing my heart when it comes to serving and loving the homeless. I have not taken the steps to search for the homeless as Brandon has, so his post is very encouraging to me.
And our first response is typically the idea of participating in some organization that feeds the homeless, or serve at a soup kitchen. These established ministries are needed, wanted, and serve to transform my own heart as much as they reach those who are homeless. And when we think of the poor, the first thing that typically, but not always, comes to mind is the idea of financial poverty. But is poverty deeper than that?
I live in the burbs. I live in a upper, middle class community in the suburbs of Sacramento. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is where my Father has me at the moment… [Jonathan discusses going to another area of town to serve people.] But loving our neighbor next door, when every time he looks at us with an angry stare, is another matter. Our neighbor isn’t likely to leave tomorrow, meaning we have to love over a long period of time. Our flaws are likely to show and then weâ€™re no longer the hero. Weâ€™re simply human called to love.
Jonathan’s post describes where I am today. God has placed our family in a suburban neighborhood, and it is our responsibility to be salt and light in that neighborhood. Like Jonathan said, suburbanite are just as poor as their homeless counterparts, but the poverty is hidden by the stuff with which they tend to fill their lives.
So, who is correct? Is Brandon correct that we need to leave our neighborhood in order to serve and love the homeless? Is Jonathan correct that we should stay in our neighborhoods in order to serve and love our neighbors? The answer is “Yes” to both questions! We are to serve those near us and those far away as God gives us opportunity.
These two examples demonstrate the importance of listening to different voices. God gifts people differently and he gives people different passions. If we only listen to those who are gifted similarly to us and passionate about the same things as us, then our lives will become stilted and out of focus. We need to listen to one another.
Finally, I want to conclude this blog post by pointing back to something that Jonathan said in his post. We are “Human called to love”. We are called to love everyone that we come in contact with, whether this is the neighbor across the street or the homeless across town or the grocer or the doctor or the landlord or the governmental official. We are called to love everyone, especially those who seem the hardest to love. In fact, we need to love those who are the hardest to love especially, both for their sakes and for our sakes, but primarily so that God will be glorified when he does something through us (loving the unlovable) that we cannot do ourselves.