But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:17-18 (ESV)
How often do we see a person in need and—out of fear or convenience or a myriad of other reasons—think it’s hopeless or just too messy for our involvement? Perhaps we don’t want to get involved because their story is just too difficult to hear. Or we’re busy. Or we don’t know how. Or we like our comfort and sterile environment untainted by the ills of society. What if we chose, instead, to get our hands dirty for Christ? What if we chose to insert ourselves into the timeline of a single, homeless mother and her kids to redirect the legacy that family will leave? What if we brought a woman to a much-needed healthcare appointment and sat with her while she waited for the physician? It’s easy to stay out of the mess and grime of other people’s problems…to stay clear of the deep, wrenching, soul-shaking pain that most of us will never experience. Pain caused by severe neglect, horrendous words, and lies infused into people’s inner beings as children. Pain caused by emotional scars, sexual abuse, deception, physical abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, and poverty. “Those” people often becomes a mantra that makes its way into our vocabulary. “Those” homeless people. “Those” women who are prostitutes. “Those” prisoners. “Those” poor people on that side of town.
What reason do “those” people have to stay in abusive relationships, live on the streets, or refuse life-saving health care? “Those” people often live in generations of poverty, families in which jail or prison is likely, where higher education does not seem to be an option. Usually, they are forced into decisions that are made for them, completely out of their control. They were sent to foster care as a child. They were taught to be tough and street wise, never trusting and always fighting for what they needed. What was normal for them as children, teens, and as young adults was far from the normal most of us were fortunate enough to experience. Their normal was broken relationships, hurt, pain, abandonment, poverty, and confusion. Many did not know how to belong to a healthy family unit, how to believe that good things were possible, or how to become productive, life-giving members of our community. “Those” people had choices taken from them at a young age.
Thousands of people here in Colorado Springs have been shaped by forces that continue to whisper—or many times shout to them—that they are worthless, hopeless, garbage, dirty. Desperate circumstances drive women and their children to live in their car, or couch surf, never knowing if they will be safe. So she barely sleeps through yet another night. Desperation causes a woman to forego health care, assuming that she has nowhere to turn for affordable, loving, hope-filled, competent care. So she waits another month.
Families in town need our open heart. They need us to get our hands dirty, diving into their pain and anguish and saying, “I am here for you. No matter how dirty, uncomfortable, ugly, or painful, I am here. And I will help lead you to the help you need.” Without inserting the hope and love and redemptive power of Jesus Christ into the pain, the patterns of abuse, neglect, poverty, incarceration, and homelessness will continue for generations. Imagine what we can do as Colorado Springs. We can blanket this city in care so we see generations of children grow up knowing they are loved, they are valuable, and they are seen. We have the power to see people in pain, build relationships, embrace them, and love them into wholeness. Then, and only then, will we see this city we love transformed 20 or 30 years down the road. Fewer children in foster care, homelessness eradicated, lowered crime rate, and intact families. Yes, it’s possible if we’re willing to get our hands dirty for Christ and put ourselves in the midst of pain right here in our city.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.” – Isaiah 58:6-9