I don’t like homeless people.
Before you stop reading, don’t stop reading. I don’t like homeless people for different reasons than what you’re probably used to hearing. It’s not that I don’t like seeing them on the streets, or that I think they are my streets, or I want them to “just get a job for heaven’s sake.”
It’s that I don’t like the conviction that comes when I pass a shivering woman. I don’t like the brittle heart sensation that comes when I don’t even see a body, just a mass of blankets with a few garbage bags. I don’t like sharing the train on -10 degree nights, knowing in seven minutes I will be warm and comfortable while the man next to me will ride with a cricked neck into the bleak morning.
I don’t like any of it. I hate it actually. Isn’t it kind of ironic that the things you feel so passionately alive about are the things that give your soul pain?
Back in Chicago, on Sunday mornings I used to make the mile trek past sporadically spaced lost souls only a mite further down on their luck than I. Shaking my head, I would wince sympathetically and hope that conveyed my apologies. Apologies for everything.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash on me.”
It’s even worse when they nod understandingly and say “God bless,” as if it’s okay for a human being to not stop everything in their lives to make sure another continues to go on living and being and breathing. It always bothered me that as I walked to church, I would pass (and even ignore) the homeless. I realize now why that was. It was never Kelly passing the homeless to get to church. It was the church passing the homeless to pray about things she wouldn’t live out. She wouldn’t act on her convictions before the church service began, and she certainly wouldn’t do it after.
I think one thing many Christians are unconsciously guilty of is praying false prayers. That is, they pray things they don’t really want to happen. I know I’ve done it before. I find I am most guilty of praying false prayers when it comes to my significant other. In prayer I ask God to use us however he sees fit, but in my head I have a plan for how I want my life to go already. I tell God our relationship is His wholly, and that He should bring us victories or defeats only as they glorify Him (like He needs my permission). In reality, I only want the victories. I only want the smiling good times, the happy snapshots that I can put as a Facebook profile picture. False prayers are not righteous prayers.
Lord I will go wherever you will send me.
As long as it’s this specific spot in Africa so everyone will know how committed I am to going to the ends of the earth to spread the Gospel.
Lord, use these hands and feet to do your will.
But don’t make me hand over a dollar. Or burger. Or blanket. But don’t make me walk towards that man with the grimy McDonald’s cup, pennies and dimes jingling in the bottom.
Lord, I am yours. Use me in whatever way you see fit. This life is yours to do with what you will.
But not this, Lord.
I need to go to church, Jesus, I can’t stop now.
When will we stop?
There’s a time for speaking, and there’s a time for acting. There’s a time for observing, and a time for demonstrating. There’s a time for crying, and a time for wiping the tears away and rolling up your sleeves.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?'” -Matthew 16:24-26
We’ve got people in many stages of life in this world:
- gaining the whole world, but losing their soul
- beginning to forsake the world to gain their soul
- losing their soul, and having nothing
Does the man on the corner only spend the money you give him on booze? He may be a third generation alcoholic in his family. Does the woman walking up to your window at the stoplight have visible marks on her arms where she shoots up? She was born with drugs literally in her blood, the daughter of a crack addict.
The homeless are humans that happen to not have a home. The homeless are not defined by a characteristic of their life. The homeless are not a nuisance, annoyance, or stain on our society. They are the picture of what can happen…if we don’t live as a society that loves with the kind of sacrificial, illogical, crazy love Jesus had.
I don’t like homeless people, but that’s a reflection on my heart, and not on their lives.