Today I purchased my first ever Big Issue from a real life homeless person. It was quite an experience for me and something I have considered doing for quite a while now. For just £1.50 I managed to obtain for myself a variety of information, local stuff as well as an interesting article on the American President Obama. So what is the point of this post?
Well I will tell you the point. What should our response be to the homeless?
A typical thought that runs through my head whenever I spot a homeless person appealing for help through financial giving on my behalf is undeserved judgement. I know nothing about the individuals whom approach me, on what seems to be a daily occurrence to me. But what do I think of straight away? Junky? Alki? Undeserving? Ashamed to admit that this is true, why do such thoughts strike me whenever I think of the homeless?
I think what I am trying to work out is how should we react to seeing people without homes, having to beg on the streets? I am sure that some are not deserving but equally sure is that some are deserving. What I can be sure is that they all need the gospel. I have been a Christian for a few years now and my feelings on this subject have changed with age. I first believed that the only loving thing to do is to jam the gospel down their throat. But is this right. How would I feel on a cold winters night, an empty belly with no where to rest my head, and then some nut tells me I am a sinner. Thanks, thanks a lot, not. That would be my reaction or something to that affect. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying we should ever with hold the gospel from any person, but what I think I am trying to say is how do we share the gospel with them.
While purchasing my copy of the Big Issue I managed to engage in conversation with the woman, a very warm and friendly woman. We had a nice chat about the charity shop and how she intended to have a look round it later. I actually enjoyed he experience, I had almost forgotten that homeless people are nevertheless still people.
What is the Christian response. Is it to live that kind of thing to people who are gifted in that kind of thing? I don’t think that is the answer. I think as Christians we can use the term gifting far to often incorrectly. I am reading a book called ‘Know and Tell the Gospel.’ It the first chapter it challenges the view that I am not gifted at evangelism therefore do not need to bother with it. Wrong! Jesus commands (not asks) us to make disciples of all nations. We are to say this good news. Another command is to love each other. Now I am not talking about love in human terms but in the way the bible talks of love. The topic of love has been discussed in an earlier post i wrote, on the film the Notebook. 1 John tells us that God is love, and that anyone who does not love cannot be saved. Love is God. Such strong words.
Maybe the problem is that in this country Church and Christianity is dominated by the middle class, and we have no idea how to relate to the poor. I don’t know, I am no expert on the subject, but I am sure that we need to be engaging with the poor more readily. Now I know that some people in the Christian circles are doing some good work with the poor, not just the homeless. But is this enough? It seems to be similar to evangelism, that we are happy to leave it to those who seem to be good at doing it. But we know that is not how it should be. We need to start taking responsibility.
So how can I love people around me? How can I love the Big Issue vender? I want to share the gospel, I really do. I believe that evangelism and love are the same thing. We need to be forming relationships in order to share and to witness. That is a loving thing to do. With our friends we do not shout at them and proclaim their life is heading for hell, but we lovingly await for opportunities to show them the gospel. Maybe we need to be forming relationships with the homeless. It took virtually no effort on my part to chat to the big issue woman today, but her face lit up when I did stop. I hope to meet her again, and I do hope that I will be given opportunities to share with her the good news of Jesus.
What will yo do?