September 27, 2009

Introducing our Matthew 25 Outreach Initiative

Ever since I (Jim) started working in downtown Washington, DC last year, I've become acutely aware of those far less fortunate than Brenda and myself. If one is paying even the slightest bit of attention, you can't help but notice homeless people gathered in the parks scattered throughout the downtown area, several of them with a view of the White House, Capitol, or other significant historical landmarks. As we've studied this scripture from Matthew 25, we've grown to really take it to heart.

Matthew 25:31-40 (NIV)
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'
"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'
'The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'


Even though the focus of our Straight, Not Narrow ministry is toward the LGBT people, the Lord has shown us that it is incomplete without including some acknowledgement of and outreach to those who are hungry, thirsty, and need a place to rest their head. We've posted numerous stories about how LGBT teens make up a hugely disproportionate amount of teenage homeless people in this country, but this problem obviously goes beyond them to the community as a whole, especially in these difficult economic times. If only the stereotype of the affluent, jet-setting gay person was true!

This story from the Christian Post emphasizes the point made by the passage from Matthew 25 in regards to the health care debate raging in the United States:

Popular Christian pollster George Barna weighed in on the health care debate this week, asserting that Jesus would support universal coverage.

Looking at the Bible for guidance, Barna wrote that he found stories of a Jesus who healed hundreds of people who were poor and suffering. Whether the people believed in Him or not, Jesus had no condition to healing someone who was sick.

“You can describe Jesus’ health care strategy in four words: whoever, whatever, whenever, wherever,” wrote Barna in an editorial.

Jesus confronted illnesses and problems from paralysis and leprosy to demon possession and death. And he asked his followers to also heal others to put into action their love and compassion for those in need.

“Often, those whom He healed did not thank Him, and He was never paid for his medical care – but He healed them regardless, because it enabled Him to love those who lacked hope,” he said.

Based on the Bible stories, Barna said the health care strategy exemplified by Jesus called for “people to help people.” But if God’s people fail to serve others in need, then he suggested they support the government, which is “acting as a national safety net,” to run programs to help the needy.

But ultimately, it is God’s people, or collectively the Church, who are responsible for caring for the poor and sick, Barna maintained. He applauded Christian efforts to set up medical clinics, pregnancy centers and hospitals in the country.

“Imagine what an impact the Church would have on society if it truly reflected the model Jesus gave us of how to care for one another!”

The Christian pollster said he was prompted to write the editorial because surveys continually show that Americans are struggling to figure out what to think about health care reform. In the editorial, he looked at specific accounts in the New Testament that guides Christians on how to view the poor and deal with people’s medical needs.

Beginning Monday, we will be adding a "Matthew 25 Outreach" feature, highlighting a resource that is helping people (not limted to the LGBT population, but most certainly not discriminating against them either) by meeting their most basic survival needs. We can stand up and proclaim all of the wonderfullness of a loving God, but if someone's stomach is empty and growling, that will be the focus instead of the message. People need to directly experience the love of God through the compassion of His people, even if it isn't through a religious organization.

When I (Jim) see someone asking for money and take them somewhere to buy them a meal, I don't have to do a lot of preaching for them to think that, if at least for a moment, someone cares enough to help them, maybe God hasn't totally abandoned them. Maybe there is still a shred of hope they can cling to.

We pray that, whether it's a one-on-one experience like Jim has or a group project like Brenda is working on with our church, you consider reaching out in some way to those less fortunate. If you are one of those who need to be reached, we hope the information we provide here will point you in the right direction.

If anyone has resources or stories pertaining to this type of ministry you would like to share, please contact us at straight_notnarrow@yahoo.com and God bless you.

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