Two young men decided that they wanted to experience first hand what life was like for a homeless person, so they got themselves some backpacks, threw in a few essentials, and headed out to live on the city streets. For a number of weeks they found shelter wherever they could and mingled with other indigents, gathering impressions of the world from their perspective.
Being Christians, they decided to see how they’d be received in various churches, so they’d go to services just as they were, smelling just like any other homeless person would. They’d sit in the pew and listen to the service, visit with people after– if anyone would actually visit with them. They found that people tended to give them lots of room; there was usually a wide circle of empty pew around them. And friendly handshakes were scarce.
Time for a reality check:
Do you –do I– love lost souls?
Do we REALLY love lost souls?
Do we love lost souls even if they come unshaven, in grubby, sweat-scented clothes?
If these young men had come and sat in your church pews–or mine–what kind of reception would they have gotten?
Would you be the first one over to shake their hand and say “Welcome here”?
Would you have been excited if they told you they loved the Lord, too? (Or would you stick around long enough to find that out?)
Would you–would I–be the hostess to invite them home for dinner and let them clean up in OUR bathroom? Or would we think, “LICE! GERMS! AIDS! Goodness knows what else!”
What if a clean-cut man in a nice suit, clean fingernails, smelling of Calvin Klein, were sitting in your pew next Sunday? Would you be the one to sit near him? Would you want to shake his hand and welcome him to your church? Invite him to come again? Would you or I be as a hostess delighted to invite him to join us for Sunday dinner or for coffee some evening and bring his family?
Are we “respecters of persons”?
I talked to my sister awhile back and she told me they bought themselves a motorbike, that they’d taken a trip to the States on it. They aren’t usually church-goers, but if they should come roaring up to your church building on a Sunday morning, walked in wearing bikers’ black leather, would you welcome them heartily? If she said she’s my sister, would their reception be any different than if they were total strangers to everyone?
My husband and I were meeting my family for brunch at a restaurant one Saturday morning. As we were visiting together other people started coming in. Bikers. Before long they were a large group gathered in another separate room. A person could almost imagine being attacked, a knife held at your throat–and that poor waitress better mind her P’s&Q’s or she’d be in big trouble.
We got up to leave not long after and as we passed their door my husband nudged me. I glanced in and saw one man standing with his hands folded, his head bowed, asking a blessing on their food. All other heads were bowed in that room, too. How easy it is to prejudge people by their appearance!
One day my daughter and two younger girls were at a Wisconsin airport when a young long-haired, multi-pierced young fellow came striding up to them and stuck out his hand with an enthusiastic “Hi!”
He’d recognized them as girls from our Church, but they didn’t know HIM from Adam; the two younger girls shrank back, not knowing what to do or say. My daughter shook his hand and learned that he’s the brother-in-law of a well-known Minister in our Church.
It made a difference. It’s bound to make a difference if we have a mutual acquaintance or connection of some kind, even though our lifestyles are far apart now. But it shouldn’t make a GREAT difference how we treat a stranger. Heb 13:2 says, “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”
And what if our “only “ mutual acquaintance is Jesus? Or do we look at someone and assume that this person can’t possibly be acquainted with Jesus? Not looking like THAT!
James 2:1 ¶ My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.
2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?
6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?
7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:
9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.