For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. Romans 12:3
Regardless of our vocation or circumstances, as Christians, we all have a spiritual purpose. At the center of this is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing is more important than sharing His grace and love.
As you read through the New Testament, the road to salvation is clear (John 14:6), as is the purpose of a Christian’s life (Matthew 28:18-20). This can manifest itself in many ways depending on your spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12 & Romans 12:4-8). We can participate in a variety of Christian missions because they often utilize many spiritual gifts while sharing the love and grace of Christ.
Recently, I was in Gainesville, Florida, for a family vacation and then traveled on to Hilliard, Florida, for an extended family reunion. (I’ll share more about that in a future post.)
While in Gainesville, I got to see firsthand one of the homeless missions my sister Teresa is involved in. Homeless are a huge challenge in Florida, particularly in the University town of Gainesville. This is too short of a forum to get into all the angles, but on one side you have fear, unease, mistrust, and on the other…well, basically the same. A large segment of the homeless population lives in or utilizes “The Plaza” downtown, designed for recreation and concerts. Many citizens don’t feel safe using The Plaza for its original purpose.
The city has attempted various solutions, some palatable and others not so much. In an effort to move the homeless from the downtown area, the city recently remodeled an old prison on the outskirts of town and renamed it “The Grace Center,” a one-stop facility to meet the homeless’ needs. (As of this writing, housing has been delayed 90 days due to lack of funding).
Convincing the homeless to make the trek from downtown has been a challenge. In the meantime, Christian organizations continue to go to The Plaza to feed the homeless on various nights while some have started serving meals at The Grace Center.
On a hot, humid Monday night, I accompanied one such group—“Be The Gospel”—to serve dinner at The Plaza.
|Pastor Lem sharing a short |
message and blessing
before the meal
The leader of the group, Pastor Lemuel Simmons, gave instructions and prayed beforehand, reminding everyone that feeding the homeless wasn’t for our glory. It wouldn’t make us more holy or more acceptable to God. Our salvation is intact. Ultimately, our deed wasn’t to make us feel good. Our purpose was to love the people we were about to encounter. We’d love them with food, with eye contact, with smiles, with conversation, and our availability. In other words—Be the Gospel.
How often in our lives do we think about being the gospel? Sure, we can recite the Great Commission and the role we’re supposed to have out in the world to reach the unsaved. But what about the less desirable? The ones that make us uncomfortable? The ones that might even threaten our physical safety while we’re trying to help them?
What I discovered that muggy evening, as I have the other times I’ve participated in homeless ministries, is that you often walk away with more than you give. Being amongst these folks shines a spotlight into your own life, the things you take for granted, the things you waste every day, the fast track to nowhere everyone seems to be on. Jesus walked among the “least of these” in society with often little more than the garments on his back. His focus was on reaching the folks—not what was in it for him.
I enjoyed the evening. I’m glad Teresa invited me. All of the folks served were grateful, some talkative, a few were angry and occasionally loud, while some quietly took their food and faded back into the scenery surrounding The Plaza. By the time the last spaghetti had been scraped out of the pot and the last glass of tea served, more than food had been shared. Jesus had been shown to the folks who live in The Plaza.
|Me, Pastor Lem, & Teresa|
Pastor Lem’s speech about not making the evening about us had been taken seriously. Yet, fellowship among society’s downtrodden had lightened everyone’s heart and step just a little—even if just for the night. And maybe—just maybe—that’s a little of what Jesus felt when he did the same. Because, you see, blessings are often a two-way street.
|Sharing a laugh|
If you’re not doing so already, look for an opportunity to Be The Gospel to someone. It might be the only encounter they have with the grace and love of Christ this week.
Do you already participate in a ministry? I’d love to hear about it. Share in the comments, along with any prayer requests you may have. Feel free to e-mail me confidential prayer requests.
©Laura Hodges Poole