It’s 8:20 on a Sunday night, and I’m lying on the couch in my 75-degree apartment. With the heater running full-blast to combat the 27-degree temperatures outside and the TV emitting images to battle the boredom inside, my $300 iPhone5 rings with a call from my best friend.
Leaving his job at Wal-Mart, he begins to tell me about a man he met on his dinner break. Homeless and unemployed, the man had spent the previous night sleeping in a tent underneath a bridge and was now looking for a warmer place to stay. My friend bought him a coat and gloves before heading back to work. Hopefully that would keep him from freezing to death, the man said.
After hearing the story, I feel convicted. I should do something. We should do something. But what? As my friend drives to my apartment, I open my MacBook Pro, click a new tab adjacent to one with Netflix and another with fantasy football, and begin searching for nearby homeless shelters. My friend arrives, and we call a couple possibilities. No answer. No luck. Nothing.
In a city with dozens of churches, there has to be something, we thought. But there wasn’t. The man would have to sleep outside for another night – a night with a chance of snow, freezing rain and sleet.
Why don’t all these churches do something? Why doesn’t someone – anyone – do something?
Self-righteous anger begins to build. Then I’m hit with a realization. I looked in the mirror and a hypocrite looked back.
Before my three-second Google search, I didn’t even know what possibilities existed for homeless people in this city. The reason wasn’t because I lacked opportunity to discover these options. The reason was that before that moment, I hadn’t really cared. Sure, I said I cared, but that statement never materialized into action.
In a distracted stupor I had failed to practice what I literally preached. I had inadvertently passed on to others my spiritual responsibility to care for those to whom Jesus showed mercy – the weak, the broken, the poor, the outcast and the downtrodden.
Yes, the call to care for the homeless is one churches must answer, but it is also one in which all Christians must personally invest. Good intentions are not enough. Hopeful thoughts will not suffice.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ compels us to act. And that should be more than enough. Heeding that redemption-driven call for justice – whatever those issues may be – begins with me. It begins with you.
As we retweet our favorite pastors, pour into Christian books and Instagram our small group moments, we cannot forget “the least of these.” And when we see problems around us, we must avoid the easy trap of blaming the church for its gross neglect.
Instead, we must look in the mirror and see if a hypocrite looks back. After all, we are the church. If we don’t act, who will?
An hour later, my friend and I drive around the city and look for the unnamed homeless man. As the temperature continues to drop and the radar lights up with wintery precipitation, the man is nowhere to be found.
It’s now 11:45 on that same Sunday night. I crawl in my warm bed and set my alarm for 7:30 a.m. As I drift off to sleep, I hear the heater begin once again.