Today’s guest post comes to us from Bec Cranford-Smith, our esteemed Volunteer Coordinator. Bec is also a pastor in her community, and her post today comes from her perspective. These thoughts represent Bec Cranford only and not those of Gateway Center as a whole. If you have an interest in volunteering, then please get in touch! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sometimes our stereotypes prevent us from serving others. And we all have stereotypes. Many are based on experiences, but far more are based on what we have heard our authorities say. Our authorities may take the form of teachers, parents, community, church, politicians or even the media. We sometimes never think to question these stereotypes, because the sources that we gleaned this information from remain endeared to us. Now everyone loves Great Grandma Elizabeth and her soft peppermints she kept by her rocking chair. We adore the way she loved God, but we all know she could be a bit racist at times. And so with our authorities, we know they can have good hearts, read the bible, and still be misinformed.
Many of us have stereotypes. We think certain kinds of people do certain kinds of things. We think all students who dress in black must be depressed, or that all students with dread locks must smoke weed. These are dumb stereotypes, but we have them.
Stereotypes abound when it comes to homelessness. I hear people say homeless people are lazy, drug addicts, and drunks. I also hear things like “persons experiencing homeless don’t want to help themselves.”
I often hear persons say that someone who is homeless made bad decisions and got their just deserves. And I hear that from Christians. Now some folks have made bad decisions, even some of the best Christians. But what right do we have to suggest that persons experiencing homelessness have sinned?
Sounds like the disciples in John 9. They had spent a small time with Jesus, and all of their religious-superiority-pride from the past reared its ugly head and came out.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Now we don’t like to think of suffering as a promise of God. As a matter of fact, we usually equate that with sin in our lives.
But what about Job? Was he not a righteous man? The bible says he was. Yet his friends came after he had lost everything, and was experiencing homelessness. They sat with him for seven days in silence, as was the custom, after his children died buried under the rubble of his formal home. And when their time was up, they began to speak, asking Job if there was sin in his life. Judgmental. They acted like the experts in Job’s life. As a matter of fact, they started spouting off suggestions, telling Job what he “should” do. You should do this. You should not have done this. You should have done this. And they should all over Job. Do you like being should on?
We “should on” others every time we judge them. We are so prideful and self-righteous in our judgment. Yet, we see that suffering is a promise from God!
Don’t believe me- just look in the Bible: Acts 14:22 says that Paul told his churches, “Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom.” Oh, And Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (John 15:20). And Peter said, “Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). And whoever wrote Timothy said (in 2 Timothy 3:12), “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Preach that on a Sunday morning! That’ll bring in offering.
We never consider that someone who is suffering during an experience from homelessness might be there because of injustice and greater evils that exist in our world. Some people may be experiencing homelessness due to mental illness, running away from abuse, economic devastation and natural disaster. Since the devastation in Oklahoma, we see many good God fearing Christians experiencing homelessness.
Many Christian leaders want to speak up after a catastrophe and suggest that these were the wrath of God. So tell me, in Oklahoma, where the majority of persons are God fearers who sinned? Or when devastation hits Montana, are the moose culpable, and in need of repentance? I mean really, come on. This judgmental nature of ours needs to be crucified with Christ.
Now the Law of Attraction movement, the Word of Faith-Prosperity churches, and even mind over matter ideologies have many positive attributes, but when they tell you someone is suffering financially because of sin in their life or because they weren’t tithing, they are simply wrong. And unbiblical.
Why do we continue to judge, and when will we see that the streets of Atlanta, Boston, Houston, and every other major city are full of the righteous?
What do you think?
Last year over 4,400 unique persons stayed at Gateway Center in their journey towards self-sufficiency and out of homelessness. $10 provides meals for a day for one of these men, women, and children. Every dollar counts. Make a donation today.