a different set of rules

Several times in my service commitments, I have noticed an unattractive phenomenon of the privileged. There is a lack of understanding among us that leads to cross words and bitterness towards those we are supposedly helping. Years ago, our church housed and fed homeless families for a week at a time on a rotational basis with other churches. One evening that we were hosting, the church phone rang, and an unknowing parishioner asked, “Are THE homeless there yet?” One of the families’ sixteen year old son had answered the phone and he was reduced to tears for the remainder of the evening. A big man looking boy, James, crumbled before me with the pain and realization that HE was who they were talking about—no name, no identity, except the disgraceful label of HOMELESS.

The last several evenings, I have experienced similar occurrences. Some of the helpers for the vacation Bible school that our church is sponsoring in a low-income, high crime part of town have a lack of compassion toward the people they are serving. I sometimes wonder why they are helping, spending their time complaining about hoarders of food, and the “tricks” the kids play to try to get an extra soda or cookie. I am not glossing over the situation, as it is a dangerous and foreign land for most of us. The first evening, a man was shot and killed in another area of the complex, and it didn’t even make the news. In most of our familiar surroundings, we could expect children (and adults) to share, to wait patiently, to be mannerly. This is not the world in which they live. There is a great book by Ruby Payne called Understanding Poverty that really helps clarify some of the hidden rules and expectations of the lower socio-economic bracket in our society. It doesn’t necessarily bring compassion or undeserved pity. It opens doors to truths many of us have never realized.

We have one more night to “get it right.” Please pray for each of our attitudes to be generous hearts desiring to serve in Jesus’ Name, without questioning others’ motives, without judgment. If we err, may we err on the side of love. And on a final note, if you don’t already have a real face to put with homeless people, think of young James.
Mighty To Save – Hillsong United

Hosea 6:6 – “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.”


11 thoughts on “a different set of rules

  1. Hi Sweet Friend,

    I am praying for you. I remember something similar happened years ago in a church we attended.

    The youth pastor and a group of really loving teens wanted to take the church bus and bring some kids from the housing projects to the church VBS.

    It was a disaster. Those kids were a handful, but the women in the church were horrified at having to “deal with them”.

    GOD and HIS love is so much easier to share with a pretty little white girl in a nice outfit, right? Afterall, she is so sweet and polite. GOD’S love doesn’t seem so loving with a “mixed” race boy who’s clothes don’t match and he doesn’t have proper manners.

    Jump ahead – years later and nothing has really changed. GOD’S truth and love is so much easier to share with all the “nice people” in our “nice churches”.

    We really need to get this thing even if GOD has to break our stubborn, bigotted hearts.

    I love that you “get it”, Precious One!
    Love and prayers,

  2. This is very close to what I will be teaching in my Sunday School class this week: Loving the unlovely, the ones who are frustrating to you, the ones who drive you crazy, the difficult ones.

    God IS love. Nothing will change that — it’s His D.N.A — it’s who He is. The only way we can love someone we consider unlovely or someone we just don’t like, is to allow God to fill us with Himself, with His love. Then, and only then, will we have the right (Agape) love to pour out on them. We should not look for what we get out of it, but that God is loving through us to benefit them.

    It sounds like your generous church crossed into a different culture. Sometimes we forget that even though we may be only going across town, we can cross cultural barriers. When it’s in our city or state we don’t expect to find it, but it’s there just the same.

    I, too, have caught myself having an attitude toward those who may have acted incongruously. However, in the end, I was the one who was acting inappropriately because I was on their “turf” and my rules didn’t apply.

    Dear God, please help us to love unconditionally. Help us to know when to hold on and when to let go. Give us insight through the Holy Spirit.

    Blessings, dear Annie, as you reach out to others.


  3. I think we are an arrogant nation, a haughty people. Just look at the grocery store how we speak or on the phone with service people. Wonder what is going on in my mind and in my heart that my thinking is so critical, so mean at times. That’s not God! Repentance must start with my stuff. Liked your post! Pray for us—we leave for Austin in the morning.

  4. I think more needs to be said about this topic. It’s on my mind a lot because sometimes I wonder why I seem to notice those kinds of negative things when I’m supposed to be moving/living in love, representing him. I know that the depravities I’m capable of are way worse than food hoarding, for instance. I could prop up all kinds of reasons I feel “offended” in those situations that you described, but the Lord has shown me that none of it matters. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this all here, but your post really spoke to me. This needs to be part of a big, ongoing discussion. I may get that book you suggested.

  5. I think all of us need to examine our hearts and how we view “others”. We need to keep “the main thing, the main thing” and what is the right view in the light of eternity. What is important in the light of eternity? These are questions I am asking myself lately. Blessings on you and your church as you serve Him. Mary Lou

  6. I found myself doing the same thing, rationing the food, then God stopped me, and so I don’t want this to be a point the finger post at all–we are all equal in God’s eyes. In fact, I think He holds even more compassion for the downtrodden. Whoever is the least among us will be the greatest in His kingdom. Thanks for all your prayers. I, above all, need His compassion and heart! You all are the best. Love, Annette

  7. Aren’t we glad that God sees us through different eyes? I look at myself and I know the darkness of my heart and still He sees me as a precious treasure. And I know that I am called to see others that way as well. (It is a prayer that I pray over and over again.)

    I’m lifting your community up in prayer today. Blessings, sister.

  8. I’m praying for James and anyone else who feels the same kind of pain. It’s only by the grace of God that I am not homeless. Thank you for opening up my eyes to any judgment I have in my heart! He can move mountains, Annette! I believe it. I am so happy knowing your beautiful eyes are looking into theirs, showing nothing but the Love of Christ! That just gives me the chills. Thank you for your obedience!
    Love you,
    Angie xoxo

  9. Praying for you A1. We used to do the rotation with other churches for the homeless. Older volunteers seemed to have more compassion in our case. (Probably because they lived through the Depression.) Many of the 20 and 30 something volunteers were impatient and unkind.

    We must be the hands and feet of Jesus, not the hands and feet of the Pharisees and Saducees.

    Praying for you.

    Love, A2

  10. Praying for you all Annie. Praying for love to be all that we give…no judgement, no critical spirit. Only Jesus and only love.


  11. Good things to think about.

    Blessings to you and your church as you endeavor to bring Christ’s light to what seems to be a very dark place.

    I will pray for y’all this evening.


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