34 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:34-40 (BibleGateway)
This past year has brought many changes to our lives, but one of them has been Deliverance. We first heard about a ministry to feed the homeless through our brothers and sisters at the military chapel. They had just launched Deliverance and Adam decided one Friday night to go with them on their weekly run downtown. A few weeks later he mentioned to me that I should bring Michael down, and we can do this as a family.
Now, personally, this was a huge step for me. I had a preconception of the homeless and I felt uncomfortable and awkward. At first, all I did was push Michael in the stroller, feeling like I wasn’t doing a single thing and that I was in everyone’s way. But then I noticed how much the folks downtown loved seeing Michael. I noticed the smiles on their faces as Michael handed them a bagged treat or waved his little hand at them. Something inside began to change in me, and I soon discovered that we were not only blessing the homeless friends, but we were being blessed. God opened my eyes and heart, changing my view of the people around me. I don’t see them as homeless anymore, I see them as friends who are in need of hope, love, and some hot food.
As the months progressed we found ourselves taking on cooking all the chili, every Friday. Adam has transformed part of our garage to accommodate Deliverance supplies (in fact, he is putting up a few more shelves as we speak!) and I have a second fridge in our laundry room to hold the flours, sugars, etc. for when I have time to bake some treats. Our Fridays are filled with only Deliverance work (other than the obvious: Adam going to work to bring home the paycheck). Michael loves Friday nights, and he loves the well-recognized green shirts we all wear (we have been called “the green people” by one downtown friend).
But then, we are facing some adversity. Some neighborhoods do not like it when we come out, because they think we are bringing the homeless to their streets. A company has openly cursed at us and called out insults to the hungry and without a home, wishing we’d pull our green wagons elsewhere so it wouldn’t interfere with his business. And then I read an article about a man getting arrested for feeding the homeless, that it was illegal to do so in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
So, putting aside the details of the story and the fact that some in San Diego do not like what we’re doing, let’s go back to the verses. Jesus is talking about those whom he knew, and those he didn’t. He lists some examples of how he knew/will know us: he was hungry and we fed him, he was thirsty and we gave him something to drink, he was a stranger and we showed hospitality, he was in need of clothes and we clothed him, he was sick and we helped him, he was in prison and we visited him. We ask how we’ve been able to do that, and he explains that if we do it to “the least” we’ve done it to him. If we’ve fed the homeless, gave them drink, gave them clothes, helped them when they were sick — he’s not just saying we do it to our close friends and family whom we know and trust and feel safe with, he’s saying if we minister to those around us, struggling to survive, we do it also to him. Later in the passage he mentions that if we don’t, he doesn’t know us.
So I pose this question: as a Christian, how far would you go for those around you? This question has burned in my mind as we are faced with those who think we’re “doing a nice thing but please do it elsewhere”. When you look at what Jesus said, and how many times he has talked about the poor and the homeless, the sick and the stranger, don’t you think it’s important to care for these fellow human beings, who are struggling? How many times have people in Acts and in the Letters to the Epistles been applauded for their work to those less fortunate? To me, that speaks a lot about what we are meant to do as Christians.
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)