I don’t know about you, but I made more than 1 New Year’s Resolution this last week. I started the first one this morning. When I arrived at Union Rescue Mission, I took the stairs rather than the elevator – good for my heart and my waist line! I was fortunate enough, or unfortunate enough, to battle an illness and busyness through the Holidays that helped me lose 15 lbs! I have resolved to lose another 15 lbs by March 1st. I am avoiding desserts, fried foods, and I am determined to eat more vegetables! I am going to make time to ride my bicycle enough each week to strengthen my heart as well. I also re-committed to taking time each day to read a couple of Read Through the Bible programs and daily devotionals, something I committed to last November 1st, after hearing my friend and mentor John Perkins say, “How did I persevere? By being discipled in the Word of God!”, but I let that one slip on too many days.
However, my biggest resolve this year is to do what I can and say what I must to change the heart of this great city of Los Angeles, and help us live up to the title of the City of Angels by ending our reign as the Capital of Homelessness in the U.S. I know hearts can change towards people who are experiencing homelessness, because I had my own change of heart 24 years ago. One day, one of my students mistreated a “weaker” student and it broke my heart. So I preached Matthew 25 verses 31-44 to them, where Christ returns, separates the sheep from the goats, and He says, “come and take my inheritance prepared for you since the creation, for I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. For whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did it unto me.” It was the best sermon I have ever preached! The following Sunday, just days later, I was eating in my booth at the parking lot that I worked at on the weekend. A man who was homeless asked me for my sandwich. I said, “No, I need my sandwich.” His face dropped with disappointment as he walked into the darkness and out into the snow. Immediately, I heard that still small voice. “Andy, here was your chance to practice what you preached, and you missed it.” I prayed for another chance. I found the man and fed him dinner. That’s the day God truly changed my heart. I’ve been working in Missions and with people who are experiencing homelessness ever since.
Today I would strongly suggest that it is impossible to be a true believer or a faithful religious person if we practice spiritual disciplines like prayer, bible study, worship, even fasting, but do not respond with love in action to human beings, brothers and sisters who are living on the streets of our city. These struggling people represent Jesus Christ on earth, and our response to them is our response to Jesus himself. Matthew 25:31 sums it up well, but it finds its root in Isaiah 58:6-11 (ESV):
6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.
11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
Will you resolve with me, to work toward the day when not one precious human being will be left sleeping on the streets of our city? Learn more about how you can take action at youarethemission.com