Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Homeless--Any Prospects?

Every night, nearly 200,000 homeless veterans sleep on the streets. “A disgrace,” says former Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Jesse Brown, “that we have men and women who served in American uniform who are out on the streets with no place to go and few prospects for a better life.”

The little bit of information above came from the web site, linked here, of Dignity Memorial, a homeless veterans’ burial program that provides free, appropriate funeral services for qualified homeless veterans. That’s a generous gesture.

But what about their lives? Are they to be left alone under a bridge or on a park bench until death, and then washed, dressed, and buried in a decent way? I believe I see some irony here.

A Google search shows this linked web site of National After much beating around of the proverbial bush about studies and assumptions, the author says

the total number of homeless people in the United States is “approximately

3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children,” according to the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty. That is a disgrace.

The United States has the reputation of being one of the most advanced, wealthiest, least hungry nations in the world; many generous Christians live in this country, and the church is not persecuted. Why would so many people be destitute? Is our love too small?

Mark Labberton is the author of a Christianity Today article entitled “The Lima Bean Gospel.” He posits that the church today does not give much evidence of obeying the gospel call; maybe it isn’t politically correct to be zealous, and we worry about that. Labberton says:

Jesus Christ, the Lord of Creation, Redemption, and Fulfillment, calls the church the salt and light of the world. Jesus seems to have had in mind a community engaged in vigorous, self-sacrificing mission that goes to great lengths to enact costly love, that inconveniences itself regularly to seek justice for the oppressed, that creatively serves the forgotten, all to portray that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Depending on where we look in the world, however, that church seems to have gone missing.

We should take a close look at ourselves. When Jesus said we should love God with our whole beings and love our neighbors as ourselves, he meant it; he said those two commandments embody all the ten commandments.

If we truly loved our neighbors as ourselves, we would be loving sacrificially. It's pretty clear that we are usually quite willing to go to great lengths to ensure satisfaction of our own needs. So, logically, if we loved others as ourselves, we'd be more than willing to help people who suffer dire need.

The fact that we, the whole body of Christ, are not willing to act in sacrificial ways shows that our concept of God's love is indeed too small.

As Labberton points out, our God is the creator of the universe, including “300 kinds of hummingbirds” and great diversity among human beings. He says Christianity has been accused of being too bland and weak to offer any answers to the huge diversity of overlapping cultures today. We act as if our love—our gospel—is small.

The only answers, he argues, that will show Christ to the world “will require us to consider again that very thing Jesus says is central to God's kingdom, the most life-enlarging and non-homogenizing reality: love.”

The Bible says we should show our love in actions, not just talk about it:

If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence. 1 John 3:17-19

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. If the Christian church worldwide wanted to, it would act out this love, the sacrificial love of Christ. And then 200,000 homeless veterans would not have to wait around until they die to get help. Over 3.5 million other homeless people, including children, would not have "few prospects."

*I borrowed this picture from the "Oldtimer Speaks Out" blog; Oldtimer said the picture came from Flickr .

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