July 24, 2011
“How did I find myself in a better place, I can’t look down on the frown on this other guys face, I gotta stoop down low, look em straight in the eye, I get a funny feeling, I just might be dealing with the face of Christ” – Chris Rice “The Face of Christ”
“All the homeless teens were hanging out down there, they were all dancing and high and it was hilarious” – The guy working at the Coffee Shop
So often it is out of pain that we speak, I believe the man who said the second quote above was speaking out of some kind of pain, knowing this the quote still offended me. I’ve spent my whole summer working with homeless men and women, I’ve shared the stories with you about the shadow’s and how heavy this kind of work was at the beginning and still is. When the man said what he said I wanted to punch him, then I wanted to ask him if he knew any of the homeless teens who could have been high. I wanted to ask the man if he knew the hearts of the people he was now making fun of, or just making an ignorant statement to get a laugh out of the women he was talking to.
Now I don’t want to minimalize his pain and I don’t claim to know his heart, that in and of itself would be arrogant and judgmental but I have a message for people like this man. It comes from a challenge that Jeff Johnson gave us after we read through Judges 19 during a bible study. For those who don’t know it’s about a Levite and his Concubine who was raped and beaten by a group of sinners. The Levite then cut her into pieces and sent those pieces to every tribe, this started a war that led to the destruction of the Benjermenites.
After asking us why this type of gruesome story was in the bible Jeff asked us something else. He asked to hold the gaze of the concubine, to hold the gaze of this lonely, suffering woman who at that time had very little value in society other than being the Levites Property. He asked us to imagine her eyes, to see the pain and the oppression in them.
In ministering to the poor we often don’t hold the gaze of those we are ministering too. We fall into this mentality that they need us to give them money or help them out through the food pantry. We go to places like Christ’s Body to serve the homeless and go by the rest of the day without letting it effect us. We get into a “Savior” mentality and forget to know them, to hear their stories, to hold their gazes. That’s why I was so insistent that they young man who volunteered at Christ’s Body go and meet some of our guys and talk to them.
Chris Rice has a very point point in his song above, how many times have I seen the suffering on the faces of a poor person and looked down on it instead of holding his or her gaze. Jesus commands us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the sick as well as the widow’s and orphans. He even says in Matthew “Whatever you have done to the least of these, you have done it unto me” but I’m not sure I could truly care until I held the gazes of those I was serving.
So hold the gaze of the poor and disenfranchised, hold it in your mind and remind yourself that they are just the same as you. That they have the same pain and struggles and need the same salvation we do, God has a heart of those, He wants to give us the same heart whether we are rich or poor. He wants us to bring in His kingdom that the poor in spirit will inherit (Matthew 5:2) and to do that we need to hold the gaze of the poor we encounter, to truly love them as God loves them so that when we get to heaven God can say to us “Well done my good and faithful servant”
So hold the gaze, you might be holding the gaze of Christ!