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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Conflicted Compassion

            I was recently asked by a community leader what I thought about the homeless issue in our community.  My response to her question was:  “It’s complicated.”  There are no easy, quick solutions to dealing with homelessness in our community.  But isn’t this pretty much true of every issue that matters?  Of the important things that affect people’s lives?
            Cold Springs Church was the first church to open its doors to the Nomadic Shelter in our community.  That first year Foothills United Methodist Church partnered with us to begin the Nomadic Shelter two nights per week.  That was five years ago and now a number of churches have come on board to open their doors and offer to volunteer seven nights per week.  As the weather turns cold and wet, more people will be using the service.  Last year, on some nights, there were upwards to 50 people.

            I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t struggle so much with homelessness, I struggle with messiness.  I want people’s lives to be better by them being better.  I want people to be healthy by making choices that will lead them into health.  I’m often times judgmental and lack the grace I wish I had (and expect people to show me!).  It’s complicated.  And here’s the real rub – there are people in this world who don’t care about their messiness, don’t recognize their messiness or are incapable of dealing with their messiness because of mental issues, addictions or brokenness.  I want simple solutions to complex problems – and they don’t exist. 
So what do we do?  We look to scripture to guide us.
The other morning when I came into church, those who had spent the night at the shelter were packing up and preparing to leave.  It included a family with a couple of small children and I was glad Cold Springs Church opened its doors to care for this family.
Jesus tells a story about wheat and weeds to make a point about the Kingdom of God.  (see Matthew 13:24-30)  In this story there is a wheat field but an enemy plants weeds in the middle of the night.  The weeds and the wheat look similar in their early stages and as they mature their roots become intertwined.  The servants ask the master whether they should pull the weeds or not.  The master says to leave the weeds because if they pull them they will pull up some good wheat as well.  Also, there will come a day when everything will be sorted out – the wheat will be sorted from the weeds and the weeds will be burned up in fire.
Here is the moral of the story:  In life, some people are weeds and some people are wheat and it can be hard to tell them apart.  But rest assured, someone does know the difference and he will sort it out in the end.
The homeless shelter has helped a lot of people over the past five years.  I think of Dave and Donna.  They were in the shelter but got help that saw them get married and into a place of their own.  Dave recently died of a heart attack – in his own home.  Or Cherish who struggled with life and addictions and found herself in the shelter but got help and this time it took root and now she is a coordinating volunteer.  And there are others – messy lives that have been restored, strengthened and changed.
Being compassionate is not easy and often comes with internal conflict.  But we need to do the right thing and trust God that he will sort it out.  And be assured – he will (in his time).  Do what’s right because it’s right.  Trust God.
Peace and grace,

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