February 5, 2011

temporary shelter V - human dignity

I haven't written about the temporary shelter project at FPC for a while. And the reason is that I've struggled with how to continue to write about this. This grows difficult because this isn't simply a project; it is the names and faces of those that are our guests. They are becoming friends. You don't blog about every conversation you have with your friends, giving physical description of them, etc. Outside of select circumstances, that would be an invasion. Yet, this reveals something that is often lost for those living on the streets: dignity.

The process of living on the streets is dehumanizing. Without realizing it, those of us that are not on the streets view homeless folks differently. Saying you are homeless somehow places you a level below those with homes. Even for those that serve the homeless out of godly desires for justice and mercy are effected by this. In continuing to write, I want to be careful of not allowing these new friends to appear as subjects in an experiment. Certainly, what we have embarked on is an experiment. But it is only one in so much that two groups of people (those housed and those not) are attempting to find ways to work towards change, and follow our convictions.

Change? Yes, each of us--hosts and guests--would like to see the situation of each guest change. But when you strive to treat people humanely, this becomes a task unique to each individual. There is not one answer. And as weeks go by, it becomes clearer and clearer how much needs to change in the hearts of those hosting each night. When the subtle sense of superiority over another set of human beings creeps into our hearts we begin to act as gods--beings above others. And this, we Christians believe, is idolatry. Therefore, we too are in need of change.

One might assume that one change is internal and one external. But this would be wrong. The change for both begins internally. Our perception of ourselves has to change first before we will find the motivation to change how we act, how we treat others, how we live.

Convictions? Yes, Scriptures tell us to take care of those in need. In the process, we wrestle with the tension of seeking justice and extending mercy. One one hand, we know systemic problems must change (justice). But this does not impact the fact that we are called to offer a helping hand without strings attached (mercy). We are not a service of the State or a non-profit agency. We are a church and we wrestle to find the place where we do both justice and mercy with humility.

But it is not only the hosts that are following conviction. Read the Gospels, or the narrative of Abraham in Genesis, and see what you find about hospitality. Hospitality is as often received as given by those who follow the Triune God. In fact, Jesus made a practice of inviting himself into other people's homes. And if you have read anything on the Missio Dei throughout Scripture you will know that receiving hospitality plays a significant role in the formation of how we understand mission.

So, my hope is that in these brief weeks, these new friends--both guests and hosts--know a little more of their worth. Not just before humankind, but before God as well. More thoughts later on...

Posted via email from jason evans

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