Now and then, I hear about churches that just don’t seem to get it. Like the one in the picture shown here, or the church in Raleigh who found homeless people sleeping on their property at night and had them arrested for trespassing, they completely miss what the church is supposed to be about. Once, and I’m not making this up, I spoke to the chair of the mission committee at a church I used to attend about starting a ministry for people who lived outside in our neck of the woods. He looked at me in all earnestness and said “We would love to do that, but we can’t find any homeless people around here.” Meanwhile, the head of mission for that particular district (who attended that very church) could have told him there were a couple of homeless communities within a mile of where we were standing (we were in the sanctuary). It was a facepalm moment if ever there was one.
Whenever I encounter this kind of thinking, I am reminded of a story about a man trapped on his roof by rising flood waters. As the waters rose, he prayed fervently “Oh God, please help me! Please save me from this terrible flood”. When the water was up to his knees, a man in a canoe came up and offered to take him to safety. “Can’t you see I’m praying?” the man snapped. “Go away!” He kept on beseeching God for divine intervention and, after a while the water up to his waist. About that time, some fireman came along in a boat. “Get in” they said, “We’ve come to rescue you”. “I don’t need you” the man yelled, “God is going to save me!” So, the boat left and the man kept on praying. About the time he noticed the water was up to his neck, a helicopter came by. A rescue worker hung out the side and called “Take my hand. If you stay here, you’ll drown!” The man shook his head and answered “I don’t need you. God will save me!” The helicopter left and in less than an hour, the water rose even higher and the man drowned. When he got to heaven, he was pissed. He stormed up to God and said, “I begged and begged you to save me, but you let me drown. Why didn’t you save me?” God cocked an eyebrow at him said “I sent two boats and helicopter. What more did you want?”
There are entirely too many of God’s children who don’t have decent shelter, who need food, drink, hospitality and God knows what else. And, one day, we will be called to account for that. On that day, I imagine more than a few folks will say “What do mean? We never saw anyone like that.” And, God will respond “I put them on your doorstep. What more did you want?”