“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless” (I Cor. 4:11). Is Paul describing himself and his friends as a homeless community? When was the last time your Bible class considered that Paul might be homeless? Open the eyes of our hearts Lord, we want to see the Matthew-25 Jesus.
Homelessness has become a growing problem in the United States. Every day it is becoming more pervasive. People in worn down clothes, selling newspapers are a common sight in Lubbock, Texas on any given Sunday. If you look hard under overpasses, you will undoubtedly see a bed roll or a bundle of clothes. Homelessness is hard to miss in Lubbock and yet people do. This is not just a problem in Lubbock. Go to any major city and you will find a similar pattern. Somehow, it is still a topic that makes affluent Christians uncomfortable.
When the issue is brought up in church, the congregation tunes out. The youth group takes out their phones and new parents fall asleep. When a homeless person visits they catch many of the members making wide arcs around them as to not be caught in a conversation. Why? We treat homelessness like a virus we might catch. Maybe the stench of mildew and body odor will rub off on us if we hug them like we do Brother Jack and Sister Jill. Or maybe we will be convinced to get involved. If we don’t know the homeless person’s problem, then maybe there is no problem. If we don’t know the homeless person’s story, we can just assume that they are addicted to some kind of drug or alcohol or negative lifestyle that has dropped them into the situation that they deserve. Spiritually it is easy to see a homeless person and think that they deserve to be in their position. The fact is most homeless people are not bad people. Why would God let a good person be homeless?
The answer to this question is God uses these people, who have been humbled in drastic ways to open the eyes of those of us who haven’t. Many times working with these people I notice that they help me to find Jesus alive in my heart in new ways. God has used the people that I am supposed to be ministering to, to minister to me.
Intellectually, homelessness is a hard topic to digest. The issues are complex. How do people end up in their situations? Financially, what happened to get them to such a low point in their life? Why don’t homeless people work harder to get out of their situation? These questions dominate. After just a short discussion with a few people it is easy to find that while some are there due to their own incompetence as a member of society many of them are there because of a series of events that they could not control. A work injury that led to a job loss that led to a divorce and a loss of the home. Though it seems like a specific situation, many people end up homeless due to similar circumstances. After such a huge downturn it is hard for a person to feel like they can get back on their feet. Unfortunately, people don’t understand how to help. With no clear way out and no one willing or able to help them a person gets stuck in their position. It’s a vicious cycle that, without the intervention of a merciful, loving God, will never end.
Homelessness and its ministry has been a growing part of my life. I have gotten to see a whole new side in myself and people who used to seem beneath my contempt. I have been able to see that we share what is important: Jesus. I once was blind (by denial and contempt) but now I see. Paul became all things to all people to help us see Jesus, one of those things was homeless.