kfd&p writes: “Some of us from our church are going downtown tomorrow morning to care for the homeless. It’s so easy to get into that ‘us and them’ comparison. And it sure makes a difference if you arrive without ‘us and them’ in your vocabulary!!”
I’m not sure who said it first, but there is a popular “Christian” statement when encountering someone in a worse state than you are: “There, but for the grace of God go I.” A search for the source of the saying comes up inconclusive. Some say it was a sixteenth century British evangelist, John Bradford, but the actual quote can’t be backed up in his writings. One search concluded it was a “twentieth century coinage,” in other words, it’s one of those sayings that everyone seems to know for some reason.
Well I think it’s time for it to die. As good as it may sound at first, it’s really a statement right out of the book of us and them. There’s me here and there’s that poor fellow over there, and I’m sure glad I’m not him.
Actually, we could probably say Jesus was the author of this quote when he put words in the mouth of a Pharisee seeing a poor sinner on his knees begging for mercy, “I’m sure glad I’m not like that guy over there.” It’s the same thing.
Based on where we ended our “us and them” discussion last week, the statement should probably be more like: “There, because of the grace of God, go I.” If there is no us and them, then we are the homeless, and we need to find out why.
Because of the grace of God, I am on the same level as everyone else in the world. There is no hierarchy of worth here. There may be social, political and economic hierarchy, but it is not a hierarchy of worth. Indeed, in many cases it can be shown that the poor are better off than the rich. Jesus backed this up by saying that the poor are blessed. In other words, they are in a favored position. He didn’t say this about anyone else. There’s something special about being poor.
So kfd&p, when you go to visit the homeless, realize they have one up on you. They are blessed in ways you aren’t. Go with the intention of being taught and encouraged by them. Go with the attitude of being in the presence of royalty. Bow before them in your spirit. Serve them. Receive from them.
This is what Marti taught me about the women without homes at the Isaiah House. Time and time again I would go thinking I was going to bless them, only to find out I was the one in need of the blessing.
There, because of God’s grace, are you. Find out the you that’s been hidden from you for so long. Find out who you are in the eyes of the homeless. For according to Jesus, you will not only find yourself there, you will find Christ.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine,” Jesus said, “you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). That means when you visit what appear to be “the least” you are actually in the presence of God. Jesus beat you there. Meet Him. Greet Him. Find out what He wants you to know.
Because of God’s grace, there you are.