You pull up to the stop light, and standing feet away from you is the man with the sign. He looks predictably disheveled and dirty, his sign asking for help through the means of a sad story. Eye contact, in these situations, is usually not something I like to make. For whatever reason, if I do, I start feeling responsible – like I have to do something. So I go out of my way to look elsewhere, because I’d rather not see.
It’s easier to look away. Our city has it’s fair share of homeless, marginalized and under-resourced people all around us – whether we choose to see or not. Recent estimates put the number of homeless in Lexington at a little over 1,000. They are there, yet we have becoming experts as a culture at looking away. We find political reasons to look away, blaming their issues on bad decisions that are now forcing them to reap what they sow. We even find theological reasons, wildly taking Jesus out of context in his statement of “always having the poor among us.” (There’s just one problem with that: the rest of the Bible.)
In reality, things aren’t so simple. Systems and cycles, often in place for generations, have left many without an option. Sure, bad decisions are sometimes a factor. The difference, however, is that if many of us make the same mistake, we often have the resources to overcome it. We have the ability to escape what others can not escape – to look away. Many don’t have that privilege.
So what can we do? I get asked this all the time. We are in a neighborhood (on purpose!) with plenty of homelessness and poverty. Knowing how we face these issues is incredibly important for our Church. As followers of Jesus, looking away is not an option.
We are in a series called “Throwback” where we are exploring the book of Acts. In Acts 3, Peter and John encounter a beggar outside the temple. We’ll talk this weekend about this story, but as I read it this week something hit me in verse 4 and 5:
Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. Acts 3:4-5 NIV
Eye contact. Peter and John didn’t just glance at him in passing, they made sure they looked in his eyes. Why? I believe it’s because compassion is impossible without the commitment to see things as they are. You can’t deal with a problem you refuse to face head on.
The same John, in his letter 1 John, makes this statement:
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
1 John 3:16-18 NIV
What we receive in Jesus is given to bless others. If we are literally and figuratively looking away, how can the love of God be in us?
So again, how? I can’t stress this enough: there are wise, good-stewarding, relational, and strategic ways to address the problems before us. There are right ways and wrong ways to face these problems. That’s why this weekend, not only is Adrian preaching from this passage, but he’ll be interviewing Lori Clemons, one of our own from Restoration, who works for Lexington Rescue Mission. They’ll be giving us practical, wise steps of how we can address these issues as individuals and as a community.
So it goes without saying, but don’t miss this important weekend at Restoration. We’ll see you Sunday night!