I believe that social compassion, justice, and creativity are integral elements of Christianity. Far too often our churches (and, ourselves) focus on our doctrines, stances, and inward-focused environments that we fail to see a world that is lacking of hope. Too often, we view opportunities to respond to these situations as “projects” and “ministries”…the mindset being that this is something we do on the side; something that is in addition to our faith, when we have the time or the convenient opportunity. I struggle with this because I grew up in a church environment that prioritized things into trips and projects (youth rallies, church camps, and service saturdays), and the stronger Christian you were, the busier you were with church activities. I think that mentality has festered into a sort of casual, convenient, American-ized Christianity which has kept me comfortable, rather than compelling me to move toward something deeper…something more adequate, true, and beautiful.
I’m thankful that there are many who are beginning to call to question this sort of hollow religion mislabeled Christian…and more thankful that there are many who are living and believing in a new, powerful, substantial way. People such as Rachel….a college student who has spent some time in our student ministry community as a high school senior. A student who was exposed to some of the human depravity stories our community witnessed working with a homeless population in Camden, New Jersey over the summer. A student who is still seeking to uncover the full meaning of the Jesus way. A student with imperfections and struggles. A student with faith to see that things can be different. Below is her posting, which deeply touched me:
there are few things that make me angrier than when people have the why don’t they just get a job? or the i don’t want to give them money because they might go buy booze with it mentality towards homeless people.
yes, i do realize that some of these people are lazy crooks, that some of them are dangerous, but there are also lazy crooks and dangerous people wearing suits and working in the businesses we frequent. homeless people are PEOPLE, too—people who have struggles and stories just like we do— and if i see one on the side of the road holding a sign that says he’s hungry, i’m going to feed him. it’s worth my 15 minutes and my $2.10 even if he’s already been fed that day. it’s just a mcdouble and a small fry and a small water, and i know that doesn’t help him in the long term, but i gave him more than that, i think: i gave him some validation, too. i let james know that he’s not invisible.
we talked for a few minutes. he told me he’s from charleston and he told me about his kids. he gave me a big hug and told me he loved me and to trust God because He’ll always take care of me. if anyone should be humbled in this situation, it’s me. i think james has a tighter grasp on God’s grace than maybe i’ll ever have.
i know we’re never going to be rid of homelessness this side of heaven, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting to do something about it. it’s not about making me feel good, because honestly it nearly wrecks me every time i do this. it’s easier to stay in my bubble and not see these people when i drive by; but, whether they “deserve” to be on the streets or not, these people need help. they need compassion. they need to know that they are loved.
i wish i could help on a larger scale than the mcdonald’s dollar menu and a short conversation (and some prayers), but for now that’s all i’ve got. and i’ll give it every time.
Thank you Rachel for sharing your compassion. May we all seek to find tangible ways to live out the grace of our God amid the depraved situations of men. And, may we find that the path of Jesus is greater than church attendance and doctrinal stances.