This week the Lenten reflections on Godspace will focus on homelessness. I had planned to write a traditional post to start the week by talking about the statistics and the challenges of homelessness in its many forms from refugees to street people. But that just was not resonating in my spirit. As I listened to the rhetoric flying backwards and forwards about World Vision, and read about the growing ground swell for immigrant reform it occurred to me that home is more than a place to live and the challenge of homelessness is more than that of providing a roof over someone’s head.
Home is a place where we feel loved, safe and accepted. The deep longing of all our hearts is to find our way home. Unfortunately there are many homeless exiles in our world because of our rejection. Some we reject because of their sexual orientation. Others we turn away from because of their disabilities, or their ethnicity or their social status. Sometimes we reject people because they don’t adhere to God’s law in the way that we interpret it.
I could not help but think about that in church on Sunday as we read the story in John 9:1-41 of the man born blind whom Jesus healed. This story is amazing, not because of the miracle Jesus performed but because of society’s response. The man is doubted by his friends who begin to wonder if he really was born blind, abandoned by his parents who are afraid of the religious leaders, and thrown out of the synagogue by the Pharisees who were totally closed to anything outside their understanding of the law.
Their response leaves him homeless, without friends and without a religious community to support and guide him. Then Jesus comes back into the picture, and reaches out to the once blind man bursting out beyond the rigid barriers of blame and condemnation with non judgmental acceptance. Jesus offers him a place of belonging, a place in the family of God to call home.
How often I wonder have I been blind to what God is doing in someone’s life because that person’s understanding of God and faith is outside the bounds of what I think is acceptable? How often have I denied them a home in the family of God and stripped them of humanity because of my judgement of their behaviour or their appearance? How easily do I forget that I too was once without a home in the family of God, blind to the truth of Jesus’ all embracing love?
Overcoming this type of homelessness requires a transformation of our attitudes from blame and condemnation to acceptance and love. Jesus finds many people acceptable that we do not. He goes out into the highways and byways and says come to the unacceptable – to male and female, to black and white, to Jew and Greek and I think to straight and gay, to rich and poor, to all that we want to exclude and deny a home to.
We need to remember that it is only by the grace of God that any of us find our way home. Our job is not to condemn but to accept without judging those who are searching for a home. We should focus not on what they have done wrong but how we can support and help those around us on their journey.
Maybe we all feel homeless? I know I do. I don’t fit in anywhere in this horrible world we humans have created through our sinfulness. Although I think of it more as being in exile from my true home with God. In any case, it’s definitely very painful.
Our lives are a pilgrimage, until we find our home in Heaven.
Charlie you are right we are all on a pilgrimage, but we can aid or obstruct that pilgrimage for others. We can even imply by our words and actions that their pilgrimage is not legitimate or acceptable to God, denying the right to share their burdens with God in the same way we do
I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ _Pilgrim’s_Regress_, and the soul’s longing for that “far off island”. I haven’t read that in years. Maybe it’s time to revisit it.
“this world is not my home, i’m justa passin’ through…”
Now that is a debatable point. I think God is in the process of transforming not destroying our world. Romans 8says creation groans waiting to be liberated from its slavery to corruption. The imagery is of birth not of death… but that is fuel for another post.
Lisa you are right. At times we all feel homeless and in exile waiting for God’s true home, but we can help or hinder others on that journey
Oh, too many people feel the same, Lisa, so I pray each of us finds a church home where we can see and receive the love of God and pass it on to others in Jesus’ Name. It took a while, but I found this in a small church of a different denomination than the one I grew up in.
And thank you, Christine, for reminding us to welcome others in the Body of Christ.As Christian poets and writers, our words can help or hinder. To encourage members of our Facebook group to read your post, I’ll highlight it on the Christian Poets & Writers blog – http://christianpoetsandwriters.blogspot.com
Thanks Mary for your affirmation and support.
This is a well-written guilt-trip piece about spiritual homelessness, which, in our day, has no connection in reality to ‘physical’ homelessness. Certainly, our prejudices negatively impact people’s view of Christ…which they should see in us. But, make no mistake…the Church has a responsibility to create a Biblical atmosphere where people can understand that in order to be “in Christ” they must see their own sin, confess their sin to God, accept Jesus as their Savior and repent of their sin. Unfortunately, people can still be church ‘members’ but unless they are ‘born again’ they will never be part of God’s Kingdom. To bring people into the church congregation and then fail to confront them with their need for Christ’s salvation is spiritually criminal.
Max I am sorry you felt this was a “guilt trip piece”. You are right though. We all need to be renewed and reborn as children of God. All of us are sinners. The problem is that we have a tendency to focus on a few aspects of what we perceive sin to be while totally ignoring our own need for confession and repentance. It is much easier to point the finger of blame at someone else then to confront our own brokenness.
Christine, this is a well-written and thought – provoking article. Jesus did say “Judge not that ye be not judged..” and I believe it is our duty as believers and followers of Christ to allow the fruit of the Spirit to be manifest in our daily life and encounters with people, wherever we are and whoever they are. It’s through the love and mercy of God that we are saved and that love and mercy is extended to us daily, despite our faults and shortcomings. Through Christ, we have an open door to God. Through the love of Christ that we show others, they can have a chance too. I guess it’s all about spiritual growth and maturity. Thanks for sharing 🙂 God bless!
Thanks Christine. I like that “showing others they can have a chance too. I think we are meant to make people feel loved and welcomed not blamed and condemned.
I agree. Jesus came “not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17)
Just recently I read a testimony about two lesbian young women who decided to attend a church to stir up trouble. They deliberately sat in church holding hands. No one was shocked or amazed. No one condemned them. They kept going to this church because they really wanted to press buttons. But it didn’t happen. One of the women drifted away but one kept attending church. The more she did, the more she learned and the more she understood God’s love for her. It was a journey (including dealing with the memory of a rape that happened when she was nine) but she eventually discarded her lesbian lifestyle and gave her life to Jesus. She is now serving in the church, helping others who are struggling. All because the members of that church never threw stones and just loved her where she was.
Thanks Karin for this response. Leaving the journey that another is taking in God’s hands is one of the hardest things we ever do.