Walking in Another Man's Shoes
This post comes from SOS Academy intern, Andrew Schneipp, who spends his days working with World Relief. “Hey. Hey, yo, man! Can I get a couple bucks for the bus? For coffee? For food?” This is a familiar, but uncomfortable encounter for many of us. Over the past couple of years, these encounters have sadly become more and more normalized for me. At first, I would be compelled to give something, anything. After a while, the requests would still be pouring in. Can I get some gas money? Will you help my kids eat tonight? In the depths of these endless cries and pleas, my heart had become calloused. My heart withdrew. Instead of pressing into every person with the love of Christ, I began to shut down and push away their circumstances, hoping (not even praying) someone else would handle it. I was no longer seeing people who were begging; my eyes were filled with beggars. I was no longer interacting with people who didn’t have a place to sleep; I could only see the homeless. People were no longer unique to me. They were all the same, all defined by their circumstances. Beggars. Homeless. Criminals. Luckily, God, rich in mercy, continues to prune and shape me.
Recently, I had the privilege of participating in a poverty simulation event. Although I’m not allowed to reveal specific details of the weekend, I can tell you resources were slim to none, mindsets were hour to hour, and, boy, it was cold. We started on Friday night, and my only motivation was the thought of being in the comfort of my warm house on Sunday morning. I’m not going to pretend like I know what it is like to be poor or live on the streets, but I can say, God used this experience to give me a small glimpse of what His kingdom should look like. He softened my heart in a way that was much needed. I was definitely left with more questions than answers, but that’s a good thing. God uses questions to focus our hearts. As long as we are asking questions, it means we care.
A verse that really convicted me this weekend was 1 John 3:17-18, “But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and truth.” People are in need everywhere. Not everyone’s needs look the same. But who am I to pick and choose who is worthy of my time or money or the Gospel? Just because people don’t look like me or act like me means absolutely nothing. We have one thing in common, we have a God who loves us. We are his children. Made in his image. My value wasn’t assigned by others, it was assigned by God. How can I deem worthless the same people God holds in high esteem?
During the weekend, I kept looking forward to Sunday. I knew my warm, comfortable future was secured. I could rest. Spiritually, my future is secured as well. Why am I not motivated by the fact that the comfort of the Kingdom of God awaits me. Not everyone has a home to go to on Sunday, but everyone can enter a Sunday on the Day the Lord returns in glory. Our momentary affliction is light. Uncomfortable conversations and relationships are not a big deal when we are truly focused on an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. I feel God whisper to me, Andrew, “Don’t lose heart.” Not everything has to be perfect. Believe it or not, God was at work before I was born and he will be at work after I leave. Just as he started a good work in me, he starts a good work in others, and here is the good news, he will bring his good works to completion! Praise and glory to God!
In short, do I have any real answers? No. But I know God loves the poor, how can I not? Do I realize I will be manipulated and exhausted? Absolutely. Jesus has never given up on me. I ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. With the weight of the world on His shoulders, Jesus spoke to the thief. He didn’t say, “Hey, can’t talk. I’m busy dying for the sins of the world.” Uncomfortable, exhausted, beaten, and bruised he spoke truth into a criminal’s life, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” We all have gaps. Let’s point others to the one who bridged the gap for us. Honestly, an open door for the Gospel probably sounds a whole lot like, “Hey, yo, man!”