Shine

I’m super excited for the upcoming weekend. It’s Easter! Yay! But even though I love celebrating Jesus overcoming the grave every year, this year I’m especially excited.

The college/young professional ministry  that I’m a part of is going to make this weekend about serving the homeless.

Ever since we got the idea in our minds, I’ve kept thinking about the story of the Lost Son from Luke 15: 11-31.

Obviously the point that Jesus was trying to emphasize is that it doesn’t matter where you’ve been, what you’ve done, the Father is always ready to welcome you back into His kingdom.

We can also learn from the brother who stayed, who had a bad attitude when he saw his father welcomed back his brother without hesitation. Sometimes our humanness shows through more than Jesus when we start looking at what God is doing in the lives of others, when we aren’t seeing much going on in our own lives.

But while these are probably the most obvious lessons Jesus was teaching us, this isn’t the part of the story that has been playing over in my mind these past few weeks.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. 14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.

In the New King James Version, it says in verse 13 that he spent his money on “prodigal living.” That’s why some people call this the story of the prodigal son… but Jesus never called him that. Jesus has a way of separating our actions from who we are. He sees us as we were created to be, not the mistakes we make on the way to finding out who that is.

Why can’t we as humans separate someone’s bad choices from who they are? I mean, there’s total denial of someone’s issues… like the mother who doesn’t want to believe her child has an addiction, so she just overlooks it… but then there are those rare people who can see the person inside that doesn’t want to be stuck in a perpetual mess. They don’t want to keep doing the wrong thing, but they don’t know how to escape the mess they’ve gotten themselves into.

That’s what I’ve been focusing on as I prepare to serve the homeless population this Easter weekend.

Did some of them make bad decisions to get in this situation? Yes.

But Jesus talks about how the man wasted his inheritance, but then a famine also hit the land. Maybe he would have been able to gain back some of what he lost, but then disaster struck, and he couldn’t get back on his feet.

How many times in our lives have we done something stupid, and then felt swallowed up by the waves that came as a result of that decision? I may not have made any mistakes that landed me on the streets, but I know what drowning feels like. I know what it  feels like to struggle against pride to solve a problem I’ve created myself…Don’t you?

And maybe I’m over-analyzing this portion of the story, but in verse 16, it seems like Jesus made it a point to mention that this man was hungry and no one did anything about it. Maybe the people in that country were just like us in their thinking:

It’s a recession, I can’t afford to spare anything.

They should’ve made better choices.

They could work or get another job, they just choose not to.

They’ll just waste what I give them on booze or drugs.

Not my problem…

We have so many reasons to remain indifferent to the suffering of those around us…To condemn them to remain in their situation.  But then should we really be surprised by the world around us growing darker? If we won’t be a light, who will?

So, this Easter, I hope you shine.

I hope you remember that Jesus died for you, not the “highlight reel you” that you show people on Facebook, but the real you. The one who struggles and falls short.

I hope you remember that He died for the people whose struggles and shortcomings are more public, and that right now they are just a little lost, but not beyond reach.

And I hope you remember that He overcame death so that we can overcome our sin.

Happy Easter!

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16: 33

 

 

 

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Two.

Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with how much sadness there is in the world. It breaks my heart to see people so defeated and oppressed by the enemy. As Christians we’re called to care for people, but with entitlement programs, I think American Christians have decided that it’s not their mission field. Besides, it sounds better to say you went on a mission trip to Africa than it does to say you went downtown.

My campus ministry did a local mission a couple years ago. We provided five hundred meals for a women and children’s shelter in Seattle. We also went and did the “Everything Skit” along with shared our testimonies and did worship and prayer. I was so blessed to get to know those women and hear their stories. It’s so easy to judge people when you only take them at face value, but when you hear the pain in their voice and see the hopelessness in their eyes, you realize that there is so much more that goes on behind the scenes.

So what about the people we see on the street holding signs? How many times do we think “get a job!” or “you’re just going to use it to buy booze”? While I may agree that begging and boozing isn’t the way to live your life, I don’t think that treating these people less than human will make them want to rejoin the ranks of every day Americans, do you?

So what’s my plan?

Well, according to my research (Magic School Bus), there are about 330,000 churches in America. In 2009, it was estimated that there were 650,000 homeless people on a given night.  That means that if every church “adopted” just two homeless people, we could wipe out homelessness in America.  There are so many excuses people could use, like “Well, some people have been on the streets so long, they don’t want to come off” and to that I have to ask, how the hell did we let people stay on the streets for YEARS?

And what about hungry people? Is it possible to get America off food stamps? Well, forty-seven million people sounds like a lot, but if you break it down by churches, that’s about 142 people per church. I’m not saying it’s doable for every church, but there are megachurches that spend millions building state-of-the-art buildings, when really, what they’ve been called to do is to help the poor.

I don’t know all the logistics, and not everybody wants to be helped by the church. There’s a lot of cynicism, and some of it is well-deserved. I think American churches have really dropped the ball. It’s not too late to do something, but the problems have grown to be overwhelming in size, so it’s hard to know where to start. So start with breaking down the numbers. See what it is that you can do on a personal level, then talk to your church leaders and see what your church can do on a community level.

 

“Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.” — Ezekiel 16:49