Grace for The Homeless

In previous blogs, I have challenged attitudes in Bucks County, PA regarding the homeless, being hard on some in the Christian community.

Christians are sinners saved by grace. Grace is God’s unmerited favor. That is, grace is God doing good for us that we do not deserve. In response for God showing us grace, Christians are to grow in grace and be more like Christ, and show grace towards others.

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” –2nd Corinthians 9:7″.

Many churches in lower Bucks County have opened their doors to the homeless. They feed the homeless and needy, talk with them and make them feel at home. They treat their guests as friends. One church in particular, Saint Mark AME Zion Church in Newtown, refers to them as “friends without walls.” To make guests at the meals as well as visitors to the church feel welcome, they sing “So glad you’re here, so glad you’re here, so glad you’re here in Jesus name…”

And they mean it.

Saint Mark hosts early Sunday afternoon meals once a month for their friends without walls. Officially, the meals start at 2 p.m., but some friends drift in as early as an hour before serving time. The church is open, and  people in the church are down where the meals are served, setting up. They chat with the early birds as they drift in.

Throughout the history of the church, some congregations have followed the Word of God more than others. An exemplary early church was The Church at Ephesus, which Jesus Himself praised for its patience. Patience is translated as “endurance under trial.”    This church got a lot of flack from the false religions in the city, but they kept the faith.

Other early churches allowed worldly views to pollute them.

Today the world tries to bring the church down to it’s level. Some “churches” just take on a worldly, judgmental view.

The Salvation Army was established with a mission to help the downtrodden, the poor, the homeless, even the seedy people of the street to give them a hand up to restore them through God’s Word. Today in Levittown, PA, however, the local Salvation Army Community Center helps the homeless grudgingly, not exactly a cheerful giver. They put on a show, much like the Pharisee in the parable in Luke 18 who bragged that he was not like the tax collector who also came to the temple but  faithfully followed the letter of the law.

The meals for the homeless at the Salvation Army start at 6 p.m., sharp. They are not welcomed in until then. And when they enter, social services director Queen Latifah prods them about like cattle and warns them about not running around the building and tells them generally to behave, as if they are children or criminals. There have been countless complaints about the queen, but the boss, Captain Caspar Milquetoast, doesn’t lay down the law. He once told me that he was going to keep her in the kitchen, but he didn’t follow through on it.

Particularly prevalent today is the politically correct, which dictates beliefs contrary to God’s Word. Captain Caspar evidently does not want to take a stand against the queen, for fear of the politically correct. He also didn’t take a stand against community relations and development director The Countess of Carlisle after she, in Stalinist style, punished me for disagreeing with her about the way the homeless are treated by thwarting my offer by an official from division headquarters as a writer for the Salvation Army.

On one occasion, a man who had recently become homeless came to the Salvation Army Levittown Corps (and it’s starting to be rotten at the core) for food. It was hot and he was flushed. I offered him a ride to the Levittown public library, where he could get the bus to the community meal and where an advocate may be able to help him, after I finished my volunteer work at the food pantry. As he was waiting in the uncrowded lobby, the Countess sternly told me he couldn’t hang around. After I explained he was waiting for a ride from me, she reluctantly acquiesced.

In criticizing churches I try to be as gracious as possible. Peace is not necessarily the absence of conflict. As Romans 12:18 says “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” But sometimes things must be said and action taken, for example, Jesus driving the money changers out of the church.

As was the case with the early churches, where the apostle Paul encouraged the churches to follow the Word of God, I encourage the churches to show grace towards the homeless, who were made in God’s image. The world, the Bucks County establishment, is cutting the homeless very little slack – they are mostly graceless. Christians must show God’s unconditional love to others.

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:16