“Where are the homeless in Collin County sleeping tonight?” A community-minded church member asked me this one day as we prepared for a winter night below freezing. She sat on the Homeless Coalition of the county and was often leading and participating in efforts of justice and transformation. The question changed me. It changed me because I didn’t know the answer. I didn’t even know where to start. It changed me because it forced me to think outside myself and frankly, outside the walls of the church. The question stopped me in my tracks and opened my heart and sense of compassion for all of God’s people.
The scriptures are incredibly clear about God’s love, presence, and grace for those who are homeless, financially poor, those who face injustice and discrimination, those in prison, and the immigrant. Jesus personally and systematically not only welcomes those with these needs and many others, Jesus shows compassion and lifts up the injustice for all to see. Jesus is the one who shows mercy to the woman who commits adultery, welcomes the tax collector, and gives healing to those who are discriminated against and called unclean.
At the end of the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks in Luke 10, “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” The lawyer answered, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
Go and do likewise. This is the word for us today, too. So often, we, like the lawyer, get stuck in the question, who is my neighbor? We serve out of a sense of obligation or feel-good charity. We often allow the chasms of division determine who and how we are comfortable serving. Or, we fear others so much that we fail to do anything at all.
Go and do likewise. This is our invitation and call as we are on this journey to the cross.
The church member left me stunned with the question and called me an hour later. She had made a few calls and had made a way for the homeless to sleep inside across the city and county. Her question prompted her to act. What would this question and Holy Spirit moment prompt me to do? What does it lead you to do? Us to do?
During this 4th week of lent, may we ask the hard questions of mercy and justice. Who is suffering? Who is a victim of injustice? Who is excluded? Who has no home or safe place to lay their head? Who faces discrimination? And most of all, may we ask how the Holy Spirit is at work bringing justice and hope. How will we be obedient to the call and work of the Holy Spirit all around us? Go and do likewise!
Grace and peace,