Recently during outreach with The Relief Bus, I met a young woman challenged with homelessness. Rosie (not her real name) is only 25-years-old. Rosie has suffered greatly on the streets, even been raped. She suffers from PTSD and is sometimes delusional. Rosie believes that the Social Security Administration uses mind control on her, causing her to walk around naked, not realizing that she isn’t wearing any clothes. Such a damaged soul. I have been praying for her and asking for God’s healing in her life. Meeting people like Rosie is the hardest part of being an urban missionary. My heart breaks for her. I feel God’s love for her.
Not grasping reality seems like one of the worst things that can happen to you. In the book of Revelation, God strongly addresses our own delusions. Sometimes we think we have it all together, but he sees the cognitive dissonance in our lives: believing one thing and doing another. Because he loves us he doesn’t sugarcoat this message:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent.” Revelation 3:15-19 NIV
Ever eaten or drank something that you thought was something else, causing you to get it out of your mouth as fast as you could? One April Fools Day, during our commute to do outreach on The Relief Bus, Senior Outreach Leader Brett Hartford played a prank on Metro Relief Outreach Leader Paul Ballasteros. Brett shot a video of Paul drinking what he thought was coffee, but in fact was a disgusting concoction of coffee, olive juice and orange juice. His reaction is classic. You can watch it here. It’s a funny scenario when it’s a joke amongst friends, but it’s not so funny when I am the person that makes God want to puke.
Which one of these scenarios best describes you:
- On fire for God, continually pressing into the Holy Spirit for more power to love and serve those around you.
- So cold and spiritually dead that you don’t bother to even pretend that you care for the things of God. Not sure God even exists. Either way, you are over it.
- A seasoned believer who knows all the right principles, but doesn’t feel passion for Jesus or others. You find more self-satisfaction in things and accomplishments nowadays. Indifferent to the needs of others.
Are we doing the right things, or do we just know the right things to do?
It is not by our philosophy or principles that we are being assessed in this passage from the Bible, but by our deeds. Are we doing the right things, or do we just know the right things to do? The world will know we are Christians by our love, not our knowledge of doctrine.
If you feel spiritually dry, stagnant and indifferent to the needs of others, obviously it is time to get hot again. So how do we get hot again? Rather than just more prayer and Bible study, let me suggest you stoke the fire of your heart through serving others. It is the deeds of laying our lives down for others that break us free from our own self-serving nature.
I see this continually when people come to volunteer on The Relief Bus. They leave the safe place of the world they know and understand, to enter the risky world of engagement with the lost and broken. They start out nervous and unsure of how to even talk to someone challenged with homelessness or addiction. By the end of the day, they have listened to people’s stories, been moved with compassion, spoken words of encouragement, offered dignity and given loving prayers. So many have found themselves moved closer to Jesus through the poor. These precious friends on the streets pull them back to the core of the gospel, which is the core of life: LOVE.
One volunteer, Angiliea Stark (left) put it this way,
“It was a little scary for me, to be honest. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve become accustomed, like most New Yorkers, to ignore the homeless community. I met some really incredible people and felt my openness to connect with people on a human level did more than filling an empty soup cup. For me and hopefully for them. Looking forward to volunteering again- it’s such an inspiring community!”
This is how we buy gold that is refined in the fire. This is how we store up treasures that moth and rust can’t destroy. This is how we keep the things we own from owning us. God’s treasures are people, especially hurting people. When we love “the least of these”, we are loving Jesus himself.
Although we haven’t been able to solve all of Rosie’s problems, she keeps coming back to The Relief Bus to see us. She knows that this is a place where no matter how bizarre she acts, people will love her unconditionally. She is our sister.
With all of my self-delusions, I keep coming back to Jesus, knowing that he sees my nakedness and will clothe me with mercy. Rosie and I aren’t so different. Maybe we can rub salve on each other’s eyes and be healed of our blindness together.
Posted under Uncategorized