Picture if you will a back alley way. Somewhere in between a large bookstore and a Starbucks Coffee, do you see the sidewalks leading in? They are well kept, red brick, full of people and bicycles going where they will. Occasionally a bus flies past on its way to the next intersection. There are no cars because this part of the city is meant only for pedestrians and busses. Traveling at light speed, not stopping to notice them as they stand over a trash can fire or sit on the curb or attempt to stay warm as the cold mile high night air sinks into their bones. One of them has a bottle of Jack, another has a cigarette and still another man is huddled under blankets. This is how they will sleep tonight, this is how they will awake the next morning, without anyone noticing.
That assumes of course that none of the local patrols come through and run them out, telling them to find somewhere else to sleep. Tonight that will happen and one of them will be arrested for trying to fight with the police officers. Which is what he wanted, after all even one night in prison is better than trying to find another place to sleep.
Welcome to Denver Colorado, welcome to the bleeding places. Where people who are forgotten get together to remember what community feels like. The knowledge is evident, the wisdom is coherent, you won’t survive another night without your brothers. Because there is something strangely comforting in knowing you were not the only one to hear “Get a job” or who someone looked down on during the night.
Three years removed from Denver I discovered how easy it is to forget these things. Forget nights spent with the guys flying signs or trying to sell newspapers. The same guys I would serve a meal to at Christ’s Body, the same guys who’s stories broke my heart day in and day out. I want to go back to that place, to see the faces, old and new. You promise to visit but rarely do you get the chance too. Then you hear the stories from your contacts, men such as my supervisor John, knowing that some of the guys have met untimely ends at the hands of drug addictions, police violence, the person in Aurora who is beating up God’s homeless men and women.
Where is the light in the bleeding places, where is the light that the darkness has not understood. Like a tiny watch light in the darkest place gives off so much light could be the gospel in the hands of the believers. End homelessness? Didn’t Jesus promise we’d always have the poor among us? But where is the lament? Who cares for the beggar Lazarus at the rich man’s door? Are we so caught up in going overseas that our own backyard has grown over and become unattended. Why will we pay so much to go overseas to serve meals but refuse to serve meals to the homeless men down the street. America needs missionaries too, not Christians who are fighting over who is right and wrong or who look down on the charismatics for their charisma or the reformers for their stringent adherence to the word of God. We need to be the church again, we cannot be so camouflaged by the world that we blend in.
Yes, the gospel is essential; we need the gospel if we are function healthily. But we need crazy men and women of God to be out serving and loving and building up the church, and we need pastors who are deeply in love with God to bring the church to a place where the body deeply loves God. No intense spiritual highs that don’t last, just the pure and unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, the gospel of grace and peace and does last, and goes well beyond understanding.
What if we stopped thinking it an inconvenience to serve one another? What if the church built one another up instead of tearing down? How would the world be changed, if men stood up to lead their wives and sisters. If Children grew up saturated by the gospel message, would we not see a change? If we stopped trying to have it out way, our will done, and sought God’s will. How would we make a difference? If we turned from the watered down gospel of the seeker-friendlies and turned to the gospel with its full might and transformative power, allowing and participating in the work of the Holy Spirit. How would the world be transformed?
So tonight they will sleep in a warm bed. Because two Christian families had extra rooms and didn’t find it an inconvenience to serve another brother in Christ, and tomorrow they will go to church, clean shaven and hear the height and depths of the Word of God. And though they may return one day to the streets for whatever reason but for a time, even if brief, they will know the true sacrificing love of Jesus Christ. And that, that love will make all the difference.