Loving the Unlovely

Matthew 25:45 (NIV)

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

They are in almost every city in every part of our country.  You see them at busy intersections with their cardboard signs and standing around on sidewalks, aimless with nowhere to go and no real purpose in their steps.  They are unlike the rest of us dressed in our suits; our polished leather shoes with our day’s business slung over our shoulders.  They are known by a number of descriptions; homeless, vagrants, bums, the problem is a sad yet very real one and for most of us we feel helpless, held hostage by our own fears about how to be Christ for these individuals.

I ran into a homeless man the other day on a subway platform.  Actually, he sought me out asking for help with a line about having just gotten out of prison.  My own experience with the homeless tells me that when your goal is the next meal or the next town with a bus stop you will say what you need to say to get what you need.  Yet Christ still calls us to love the unlovely.  So how are we to do that?

A friend of mine who works with the homeless gave me some advice once that I find helpful.  He advises to not give money, but always try to help with food or coupons to restaurants or stores and when you feel safe to engage in conversation.  For folks who feel less than human in our society this simple gesture can give them a sense of dignity if just for a moment.  I know of some families that keep lunch sacks in their cars stuffed with food and necessities like toothbrushes and granola bars to give to those in need.

…And anyway, I find that these encounters reveal our love for others in our lives who are unlovely.


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