I climbed into bed around 1:45am this morning after a full night of washing clothes for the community at Broken Hearts. As often happens, my mind took a while to calm down, as I laid there pondering the people we’d met that night and friends from years ago who’d shown up. The complex lives of the ups and downs, the odd affection between such various types of people converging at a laundromat, and the longing for hope in lives marked by loneliness had my head and heart spinning.
However, the undertone to my thoughts was joy. Deep joy, mixed with painful compassion. “I love these people,” was all I could think. Their potential so great, their hearts so childlike, and their actions for survival appalling.
I woke up later in the morning, hearing the dreaded sound of my roommate’s heater. All I can think of when I hear a heater running or see a light left on is $$$$. Then I get annoyed, and dwell on my annoyance and how frustrated I get by “thoughtless” actions. As I usually do in such circumstances is then assume that person will pay (literally or figuratively) for such an “attack” (on me/my wallet/time/entitlement). Then I feel justified.
As I drove down Sunset Blvd a few hours later, I observed random and trouble-looking homeless men and women, and the general lack of concerns for them. There are a lot of homeless, strange, or simply lonely people in this city that get so overlooked because they don’t seem to have any great worth or potential to those passing by.
Tears formed in my eyes, thinking how drastically different this world would be if just 1 or 2 people saw potential in these people and gave them a chance. Even if that chance was just for friendship and embrace. Then the tears increased…
After weeks of racking my brain for ways to increase income for myself and Broken Hearts, I began to dive into my cozy world of pride where seemingly so few people seem to care, and yet those of us “in the trenches” can barely pay bills. I know God’s called me here and that it matters to him, but it can feel like trying to empty a swimming pool with a spoon. It can feel unfair.
I thought back to a conversation with an investor friend that week regarding fundraising via churches, who essentially said the conversation should sound like this: “Look, the church is supposed to be caring for the poor and make a difference in the community. But since you’re not doing your job, how about you give us money so that we can.” Ouch.
Ouch, yes, but today I wanted to say those words to a humanity so lacking in compassion. As a Christian, neglecting them from daily life is unacceptable. And Christian or not, watching someone sleep on the street or walk around with no shoes should never be comfortable.
Flashback to something I’d read earlier this week that we are to model:
[God] is saying to all people that he sees worth and value in us. He wants to be with us, he likes us, we are important to him. To a great extent, this is so because of him and not because of us. Because God is the kind of person he is, he is able to see things in us that lie buried beneath layers of sin and shame. He is able to see possibilities where nothing but failure would be perceived by anyone else. But even more than that, he is able to uncover those hidden things, to let loose those possibilities, because he has taken all the failure, the sin, and the shame into himself. So he is able not only to show us what is there but to set it free. – (John N. Oswalt, NIV Application Commentary on Isaiah)
I reflected on the people we meet on the street who are so loveable in my eyes, yet not following Christ and making horrible decisions; I thought about my roommate’s expense-creating habits and my 100% no grace response; and I thought about me. Then about Jesus’ death:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us… For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” – Romans 5:6-11
There is no difference between “humanity”, those who will save a dog before they’ll save a human, the young boy drug dealing on the corner, my roommate who leaves lights and heaters on, and me. We’re all sinners and we all wrong each other and God.
In an instant I can get angry and justify my “wrath”, yet God looks at me and each person who frustrates me the same. He died for every single one of us, not because we deserve it, but because he loves us regardless of our flaws and failures. Then goes above and beyond to call out the good in us and set us free in the potential he created.
God did not treat us as we deserve and die for only those who were righteous and acceptable. He didn’t do what was fair.
Jesus chose to suffer with us, to suffer because of us, and then to suffer the ultimate death for us. As we approach Easter, the question then becomes:
Is that not, then, how we should choose to live for each other?