Sunday, January 14, 2007

Your Samaria

I was blessed to sit under the teaching of Mike Glenn, the pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church, this morning. He's been going through a series based on Acts 1:8 because he really wants to lead the church toward becoming a better example of an "Acts 1:8 church". Today he talked about Samaria: how they were a mixed race, looked down upon by the Jews, and basically shunned due to their past and their culture. He pointed out how Jesus gave no bounds when he commissioned the disciples to go and spread the Gospel. He didn't tell them to stop at this street or this socioeconomic background or this language or color. He went into Samaria Himself to show compassion and to convert the woman at the well. He saw no lines. He knew everyone needed Him and the salvation He offers equally.

Well, this is still the case, but we have our own lines now. Don't we? I wouldn't go into this area of town or be tight with this group of people or look or act like them. What are all the cultural and deeply-ingrained stigmas keeping me from meeting people where they are in order to take Christ and His message to them?

I was rudely interrupted with this Truth last week when I first visited the homeless shelter downtown. It's hard for me to explain without you seeing if for yourself, but these are not the people you see on the interstate ramps or sitting outside the restaurants downtown. Not that those people don't need help and compassion, they do. But these are people who are not into drugs or alcohol and have just fallen on hard times financially. Safehaven offers them shelter, food, and a program to equip them to live on their own again. It's great.

After the short time I've been doing community service there, I've been convicted about my own outlook: how I see them as different than me, how I think they should know certain things to do and not to do, how I think they should handle their children and themselves, how I (shamefully) try to justify their situation. It's gross that this stuff exists within me. Me, wanting to do missions and love people to Jesus.

This past Friday night I was the overnight volunteer at the other shelter, one I had not been to before. They just require that you lock the place up, make sure the residents are following the rules, then you go to sleep after everyone's appointed bedtime (kids at 8:00, everyone else at 10:00). I had met a few of the kids the night before, so I knew about 30% of the residents already. It was a smaller group, and I was really tired and didn't have much energy to build relationships. However, once the kids went to bed, I had an opportunity to talk with a woman, mother of 4 and married to the only man in the shelter.

I'll call her Sharon for the sake of the story. Sharon is white, probably early 30's, came from middle class America. Sharon fell for David (another made-up name), a mixed man, her sophomore year of high school. Sharon and David got married four years later. They have since had four kids, been separated, been shunned by her family, and squandered money from good jobs, which ended them up in the shelter. She was honest about how she never thought she'd be there. They had a house, car, and the typical American life. They just made some bad decisions. Now she and David have just gotten back together from being separated. They and the four kids, (10, 6, 4, and 2 years old), now live in one room in a homeless shelter. After hearing her story and the soft honesty of her heart, it broke mine. After 13 years, they are trying to get back on their feet. They're learning to budget, to parent, and to live responsibly. And they don't have anything to prove. It put things in perspective as to why they didn't behave as a drill sargeant when dealing with their kids. They' re tackling one thing at a time.

Right now, the people at the shelters are my Samaria. I desire to break down all walls and barriers. If next year, when I become completely financially independent, I don't make good decisions, that could be me. I'm no different. We all need Jesus.

Speaking of Samaria and different races, I also had a conversation with a friend today on inter-racial dating. I won't cross that bridge today, but I will say that I'm tired of ignorance that perpetuates divides. I'm tired of assumptions that sustain the chasms. As long as there is an "us" and a "them" regardless of what the basis is, there will never be a "we".

1 comment:

Casey said...

You betta go head and preach it