Gospel Sandwiches and the Homeless.

I am a bit of a mush when it comes to a lot of things. But, there are The Big Four that pull on my heartstrings like no other – snuggly puppies, sweet children, the elderly, and the homeless. Of the four, when I come into contact with three of them, I instantaneously know what to do. I mean, dogs, it’s a given. Love on them and play with them. The same basically for children – funny enough. There is just less drool involved for the second one…..sometimes. For the elderly, they just need someone to listen to them, appreciate their wisdom and good cookin’,  sometimes open the door for them once and a while.

The homeless….I haven’t quite figured out what to do with. When I drive by someone with a sign with words of desperation, displaying a tired thumb extended, or in raggedy clothes with a jar extended, I am horribly convicted. I want to stop, but I know that my protective father would not condone my being alone and offering them a ride (you’re welcome Daddy 🙂 safety first). The few times that I have stopped, I have given some change, a bottle of water/snacks, or an umbrella, but that never seems to be what they truly need.

They are needing a job. They need a ride home. They need a place to warm their hands, and they will gladly accept what I have given them. But, when I walk away, deep down I ache at the look of hopelessness that they still had on their face.

I move forward, eventually, brushing it off, until it hits me all over again the next encounter I have. It has almost made me bitter to the world in which we live. It is a rough place that crushes some of us. Then, I watched this video – and a huge Acorn of Truth whacked me on the head… this is what I like to call moments where God finally gets through my hard head.

On social media, I stumbled upon this video….

Take a second to watch it or just keep reading!

The title instantly caught my attention. “Helping the Homeless – You Are Doing It Wrong”. I was watching with the impression that I was probably going to walk away frustrated at the heartlessness of whoever created it because they wanted to beat up on homeless people. But, boy, was I wrong. It was made to beat up on me.

The speaker challenged me in how I treated homeless people. He was voicing the frustration of my generation. We want the convenience for us to bestow a sandwich upon a grateful homeless person while walking away patting ourselves on our back because it felt good. Not to mention, it was no strings attached.

We don’t want the commitment of dedicating time to an organization. We don’t want to say that we will be there the second Saturday of every month to work the soup kitchen because we like the freedom of having it open. I mean, we don’t have time because our schedule is so busy. We don’t want to deal with the uncomfortable situations of tough love we may have to use while sitting next to them as they type up a job resume. I mean, that is not our job or place.

It is so much easier to pass out the blankets, socks, toothbrushes, and food, then walk away, not looking back. It feels good – but are we really making a difference? No. Far from it.

In all actuality, I am not meaning to be a parrot of the video, but most homeless people, especially in Atlanta, suffer from mental illness and/or addiction. By providing just enough resources, we are fueling the economy of depravity in their lives. They do not feel the pressure to get help at the shelters because, hey, they get their sandwich sitting on the corner holding a sign everyday. We are promoting the idea of “Why do I need to go to a shelter? Plus, the people at the shelter will get in my face, make me change, I don’t need that,”  if they have drug issues or a mental illness….and that is uncomfortable. Why choose that when you can receive the sandwich from the people who don’t really want to bother you, they just want to post it on Instagram?

Is this really service at all? Is that even love at all? This Acorn of Truth really hit me hard. It convicted me on how I utilize my time and resources to make a difference to those less fortunate than myself. It also made me realize that there are two different types of homelessness. There is a physical homelessness. There is also a homelessness of the heart. I know because I have been there.

A Homeless Heart is a heart that is searching. It is not at peace or rest. This heart is craving something, but it cannot be satisfied. It tries to fill it with other things, but nothing can make it feel whole from the cold, lonely, starving place that it is in. It longs to feel clean and complete. This is a heart without Jesus. It is a heart that has been created by the one true God, and it is searching for a way to get back to Him. For God longs for us to know Him. It says in 1 Timothy 2:3-6 – “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.” (ESV, emphasis/underlining by me)

Wake up to look around you. I did, and it’s scary. I realized that there is more brokenness than I ever could have realized. I see the brokenhearted who still ache for lost loved ones. I see children who just want to be loved and accepted by their own parents. I see people who feel alone in this and do not believe that there is even a God that spoke it into being. I see bitterness. I see hatred. I see heartache. I see loneliness, grief, strife, sickness, doubt, and fear.

This is just the brokenness I see of the few people that I come in contact with on a daily basis. And what do I do about it? I give them a small Jesus PB&J with a smile and walk away. Giving myself a pat on the back and feeling no pulling of any strings.

Am I really making much of a difference? No. I am not impacting their situation of depravity. My job, no, not a job, but a privilege and my calling is to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus, to all that I come in contact with. For as it says in 1 Timothy, God desires to have all come to a knowledge of the truth and power of the gospel. That means that He does not want any of His children to wander the streets of His desolate creation with a Homeless Heart.

Walk with me for a second in Mark 2:2-5. I love this miracle of Jesus. What a depiction of faith.

Jesus Heals a Paralytic

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” ( ESV )

 So – this is what went down. Jesus was in the city of Capernaum, which was a little fishing town built off of the coast of the Sea of Galilee, hometown of Peter. Word on the street was that Jesus was in a house, teaching and preaching. The place was packed out, like a sold out concert. People were squished in this home, like sardines, craning their necks and ears to get a glimpse of this man named Jesus as he spoke, but they didn’t complain. There was something special about this man. People were drawn to him. They were pressed against the door frames and window frames, leaving no room for any more people to enter in.

  1. Seek out Homeless Hearts. (verse 3)

Four men, defying the status quo and not satisfied with just sitting on the sidelines of life, did the unthinkable. They carried a paralyzed man to the house where Jesus was. During this time in history, if you were paralyzed, you were not given a lot of the opportunities or accommodations that a handicap person would today. You were viewed as a burden and a dead weight on society. Some people wouldn’t even want to touch you. But, these men carried this man. It doesn’t say if they were related to this man. It doesn’t even say if they were friends with the man. But, it does say that they sought this paralyzed man out to the point that they had carried him to the house that Jesus was at. As Christians, we must do that.

We need to seek out people. We are called to seek out the heartbroken. The lonely. The lame. The sick. The hurting. Sometimes, these people aren’t always the easiest to reach out to. They may not have been voted Most Popular or Would Take Home to Mom in high school. But, we must go, seeking them out in faith. For these Homeless Hearts, we must not think about convenience for ourselves. We cannot hesitate because of the fear of rejection. We should not be afraid about what others may think about us. We just need to find them. Not only find them, but take it a step further.

2. Break down walls with the extra mile. (verse 4)

Just like the man referred to the video. Giving a sandwich to a homeless person often creates more harm than good. You are just fueling the economy of brokenness. Just imagine if the men just dropped the paralyzed man on the ground outside the house and said, “Hey, we will be right back and tell you what this Jesus guy says”.

The man was probably already bitter. Bitter that he had been spending the last few years, quite possibly all of his life, lying flat on his back. Do you think just a little sandwich of the second-handed scraps of Jesus’ words from the mouth of another would satisfy the aching of this hopeless man? No. It may only continue to deepen his bitterness of his circumstance, or worse, push him further away from the one who is the true source of hope.

What we must do as Christians is perfectly illustrated in Mark 2. We must come to those Homeless of Heart – who do not know who and where to put their faith and trust in. We must help them break through the walls that separate them from Jesus, just like the four men removed the roof above where Jesus was teaching. Everyone has that roof that can prevent them from fully committing towards Christ. It could be fear of religion. It could be doubt of Jesus. It could be anger towards God.

We must commit, like these men did in verse 4, to break through those walls with this person, tearing it away bit by bit in order for this person to openly reach Jesus. Using scripture to answer the tough questions, being the shoulder to cry on, receiving the phone call or text late at night, being the recipient of words that aren’t always kind but loving them through it anyway. It’s not always easy. It’s messy. And it is heavy at times, just like the weight of the man, plus the bed he was on, probably was burdensome as they were supporting the paralytic man and lowering him down.

But, by going the extra mile, you are pointing them towards Christ. Supporting the weight of one another is mirroring what Jesus has done for each and everyone of our sins. That requires a commitment above our comfort zone and a faith in our Heavenly Father to help us to break through.

3. A committed faith cleanses the soul. (verse 5)

In verse 5, Jesus sees the faith of these men and says the most powerful words anyone can have spoken over their life, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” I can only imagine what the faces of the people in the room. I wish I could see what the face of the paralytic man must have looked like. But, most of all, I wish I was able to see the faces of the four men, peering down through the hole in the roof they created.

Were they shocked? Angry? Disappointed? Excited?

They had lowered the man down through the roof, which was a lot easier task than what it would be to raise him back up. That indicated that they wanted him to get up and be able to walk outside of that packed out house. Their faith and commitment to the healing of this man could visibly be seen by their actions. Jesus saw this. He saw the paralyzed man before him. He had already known what this man’s greatest need was. It wasn’t the healing of his body, but the cleansing of his soul by the forgiveness of his sins.

We, as believers, must recognize this need above all needs. The need of the Homeless Heart to find home. Home in the salvation and rest of Jesus Christ in order that they may fully understand what it is to be a child of God.

I know that my faith isn’t always as clearly demonstrated or committed as these four men, but it is my prayer that I no longer just hand out sandwiches of the Gospel. But rather, I want to challenge myself with the word “more”. I want to be more open in my faith. I want to pour more time into others. I want to pray more, give more, commit more, and love more. Those men gave more that what was asked of them, and if you keep reading the rest of Mark 2, they were able to witness more than we could ever imagine – a man healed. But, more than just physically. He was forgiven.