By Chilly Chilton:
I live in a poor city. I’m surrounded by poor people. I touch and talk to poor, needy people everyday. My friends are poor. Even my staff is poor.
Are you jealous? You should be.
There’s a day from a few years ago that sticks out in my mind:
It started at 7:30am, driving to Life Challenge to speak to men and women in a one year treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction. Humble, hurting, heart-broken people – their lives have been ripped apart by substances and horrible life choices. I love to be with these people. To encourage them with God’s Word and lots of laughter. I think I’ve even become one of their favorites – it’s cool.
From there I journeyed through torn-up neighborhoods, ganglands, and projects, to arrive back in my city for a little breakfast. Not too far into the day, and I’d already seen and talked with many poor people. I, along with 2 of my staff, greeted the people in the coney island, ate quickly, talked about the poor & needy of our ministries yet to be touched today, prayed, and headed back into the ‘real world’…
As we walked outside, we saw 2 homeless people. Then we grabbed some Starbucks, saw another homeless man, and returned to our building, where a onetime-homeless woman was waiting outside. This happened all before Noon.
I think one of the greatest tragedies in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor, but that rich Christians do not know the poor (less than 2% spend time with them).
Oh, if you could only know what you’re missing… I love them! It is a beautiful thing when folks in poverty are no longer just a missions project but become genuine friends and family, with whom we laugh, cry, dream, and struggle.
People like to give a week each year or weekend each month to serve at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. It feels good, and it’s amazing how bold ‘Christians’ can be in sharing the gospel to people that they think they’re better than. But that same boldness gets lost in the corporate workspace or public schools for most people. It’s prejudiced hypocrisy – that is, ministering to someone that we pity simply because we think we’re better than them. After all, what do you have to lose in a housing project that you’ll never see again (or at least not until next year)?
But, the Word says, “Love must be sincere,” right???
“Charity wins awards and applause, but joining the poor gets you killed. People are crucified for living out a love that disrupts the social order, that calls forth a new world.” ~ Shane Claiborne
Jesus was not simply a missionary to the poor. He was poor. He said, “The poor will always be with you.” It seems as if Jesus is pointing the church to her true identity – she is to live close to those who suffer.
Ghandi said, “Ask the poor. They will tell you who the Christians are.” Would the poor of your community say ‘your church’ … or YOU? Do they even know you exist?
It seems that authentic generosity is not measured by how much we give away but by how much we have left. The best thing to do with the best things in life is to give them away. Here’s an example (from Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution): While ministering alongside Mother Teresa, he noticed her deformed feet and was told, “Her feet are deformed because we get just enough donated shoes for everyone, and Mother does not want anyone to get stuck with the worst pair, so she digs through and finds them.”
Friends, I’m not writing to give you a guilt trip or to solicit money for our ministries. I’m writing from my heart… the love I have for the poor came from the Lord. I think it’s His heart. And any reason we make for not consistently loving those with needs and poverty is a POOR EXCUSE.
Many people see the poor and homeless like the top photo – but few peer into the faces & souls (bottom photo). These are God’s beautiful creations – angels rejoiced at their birth – they have a destiny & purpose – Jesus died for them – and we get to love them back to life!
There are many poor and homeless people in Detroit, and every one of them represents a chance to love, and a chance to share Jesus. Find those people, and share your hope.