Tuesday, June 12, 2012
I grew up in a Christian home. When I say that I’m not saying that life was perfect, in fact our family went though more hard times than most of my non-Christian friends. But one thing that I saw through out my child hood and teenage years was a demonstration of practical Christianity by my parents. Even when we were struggling for money, for food, to pay rent, my parents continued to give away and to help others.
I remember when we were living in this very “quaint” town house on the Barbican in Plymouth, (when I say “quaint” I actually mean “Cramped”) there was no room to swing the proverbial cat! My parents slept on a futon in the living room. Outside our house there were some wooden benches where the homeless guys would sit and get drunk. I would often be walking home from work and my dad would be sitting out on the benches with them drinking a cup of tea and talking to them. I just used to laugh at my dad and shake my head. My mum and the rest of us would always joke about Dad having to talk to EVERYONE he meets. When I was a teenager I didn’t get it. I found it embarrassing that my Dad would stop and chat to every homeless person, drug addict or drunk that he came across or invite the homeless guys in for a shower. But now I GET IT!
Now I see that I am my father! And now those around me are the ones rolling their eyes when I pull over 4 lanes of traffic to give a homeless kid some food. Or give the crazy guy at the traffic lights R10 for his shelter rent. I’m the one who goes through her wardrobe and her children’s wardrobes for clothes to go and give to people. I’m the one who goes and fights it out at the hospital to get a dying woman admitted so that she does not die on the streets….. I AM my father. And I’m darn proud of the fact! I believe that to be a Christian you have to be practical. After all WHAT WOULD JESUS DO??
I have been going to the Homeless Shelter for 4 years now. There are a number of church groups that go to the same shelter through out the week. I find it interesting to sit back and watch these guys. And I find it even more interesting to watch the responses of the people who these people are talking to. I know that everyone of these church groups are doing what they feel is needed and what they feel is with in their capacity but I do struggle with their methods. There is one church group that the Shelter people have dubbed the “Biryani Bible Bashers”! They are a group who come every Wednesday evening with a huge vat of Biryani. They tell the adults and the children that they must sit and listen to the pastor and if they listen and then come for prayer at the end then they will give them a plate of biryani. As I’m typing this I am shaking my head. Now correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t that blackmail??! Also the message that he preaches every week is that of Hell fire and damnation. Telling everyone that the lives that they are living are going to send them to Hell in a hand basket. I have a HUGE problem with this! I know for a fact that there are people living in the shelter who are very much “saved” but have a serious drug addiction and are battling to over come the addiction. Just because you are addicted to something it does not mean that you are going to Hell. Maybe instead of condemning these people to Hell why not get them into a treatment centre where they can really get free of the addiction and walk into the life that God their Saviour has for them? I don’t remember Jesus giving orders to sit still and listen and respond when He fed the 5000. Practical Christianity anyone?
A while ago the Hillcrest AIDS centre gave me 500 free condoms. I took them to the shelter to give to the girls who are working the streets. There was a church group there when I went down and one of the older men who was preaching gave me a good going over about how if I give the girls condoms then I am encouraging them to go out and have sex. I guess some of you reading this might feel the same as this man but let me just put the record straight… these girls are going to go and have sex for money with or without a condom…better they go to work with a pocket full of protection than for them to go with none and run the risk of catching HIV or getting pregnant. I’m not encouraging them to have sex, I’m encouraging them to have it safely, and South Africa is the AIDS CAPITAL of the world after all. Practical Christianity anyone???
Last week I heard the same man talking to my friend Craig. Craig is in his 50’s and has been homeless for nearly 20 years. He is an alcoholic to the extreme. He begs for his money and spends it all on drink and rent. He has one set of clothes and is always hungry. I over heard the guy telling Craig “all you need is Jesus and then your life will be good.” Ok I KNOW that God works miracles and I know that He can heal someone of alcoholism and drug addiction just like that. I know cause I’ve seen it. BUT… To tell some one that has no money, no food, no home, no family, a sever addiction, no shoes, one set of clothes, no blanket, no friends, that ALL they need is Jesus seems a bit insane to me. He needs Jesus yes we know that but how about helping him in a practical way? How about YOU being Jesus to him? Showing him that you care about his well being as well as his soul. Helping him get into rehab. Taking him for some food, bringing him some clothes or a blanket. Being a friend to him. Listening to him as he shares his life story with you? How about some practical Christianity?
My mind has been blown over the past couple of weeks. I have had many people donate clothes and money to buy baby items and blankets, clothes and towels for the families in the shelter. Around 15 people have given of their belongings and their finances. Out of that 15 people only 2 were Christians! I find this so interesting. We say that we want to make a difference in this world; we want to reach others with the love of God. What I think we really mean by this is we want to make a difference in our own household. And anything outside is bit of an inconvenience. We want to keep the money that we make, the clothes that we buy. We want to live a comfortable life and once I am comfortable in what I have then I will consider giving to others. But only when my finances and house hold is secure. And what I give will be my old 2nd hand, half trashed stuff that I don’t want any more. (I will say that these 15 this past week donated 2nd hand items but those items were all in perfect condition. Nothing was stained or ripped, it was all wearable and what a blessing it was to take these things to give to the people in the shelter.)
If my parents had had this mind set when I was growing up I would not be in South Africa working with the homeless and street kids now. I would be in some job that I hate just so I can get the latest new thing. So that I can get my pension secure, so that I can buy my dream home. I am thankful to my parents. That their love and compassion for others rubbed off on me.
When life gets hard (and believe me it REALLY does) there are times when I would love to have a nice house, with hot running water, or a washing machine, or some nice clothes. But those times last for a moment and then I see a child begging on the street, or I take one of the girls for a HIV test and it comes back positive, or I sit with a mother who has just had her child taken away from her by social services because they live in the shelter, and I thank God for teaching me that Practical Christianity is the ONLY way to reach these beautiful people with His unending love. Loving them as they sit next to me shooting heroine into their veins, or sniffing glue, love them, as they get ready to go work the streets for the night, love them as they get locked up for drug possession or for fighting. Loving them and trusting that the Holy Spirit will do the rest. That one-day the ball will drop and Jesus will take over their addictions, their desperation's and flood them with His peace and His unbelievable healing power. Not just healing their broken bodies but also their ravaged souls.
How can you be a PRACTICAL CHRISTIAN today? Think on it, pray on it, and ACT on it! Love you all. V xx