In John 4 we see Jesus reach out to the Samaritan woman. The ramifications of this are well-known, so a simple summary is all that’s needed: a male Jew would not interact with a Samaritan—especially a Samaritan woman—because the two groups hated each other; Jews very much looked down on Samaritans. Yet Jesus talks to her anyway. Christ ignores societal norms and stereotypical views by putting her humanity first and treats her with genuine care and compassion. We are not too good or too righteous to “lower ourselves” (abhorrent phrase) down to the level of others and reach out to them in love and care. It’s this passage that always gets me thinking about the homeless.
Does my interaction with them preserve or eradicate stereotypes? Well, for one thing…I don’t like giving money to the homeless. I think it’s lazy and done out of selfishness so we can feel better about ourselves. It also bothers me when I consider what I’m doing to that homeless man or woman. Basically all I’m doing is saying, “I acknowledge your existence, but past that you just aren’t worth my time.” I would much rather take that $20, pull up to a homeless guy on the side of the road, open the passenger door and say, “Hey, do you wanna go get some lunch? It’s on me.” And when we go to eat we will sit down and just talk, and we will build a relationship. And I should continue to do this with this guy until, well…actually, why stop? I’ll be honest…this sort of thing is where I’m good at being a lot of talk and not enough action.
But some of us don’t even want to try to make the effort. We would be repulsed at the idea of a homeless person even getting into our car, simply from the fact that it might’ve been God-knows-how-long since their last shower. Some of us are sold on the idea that they’d pull a gun on us and rob us of everything we own. Some of us are afraid that they may be high or drunk. Heaven forbid we interact with them, individuals who could use somebody to talk to. And yet these people, these human beings, these children of God go ignored by us because we’re too comfortable and don’t want to be challenged. We have to remind ourselves to get off our pedestals and realize that we’re not “too good” to do something like this. Some of us say, “But this stuff is risky.” Yeah, it could be, but Christ took risks all the time. In fact, it eventually killed him. But until we live as Christ lived we do not know what it means to experience a life fulfilled. It seems some of us believe a bubble of shelter is necessary. The apostle Paul believed that to live is Christ and to die is gain, and in today’s comfortable Christianity you almost never find that kind of attitude.
Jesus made the point that when you serve these people you are feeding, clothing, and serving him. That is so very ironic, because most of us would jump at the chance to have Jesus over for dinner, but we would be so quick to shut the door in the face of a homeless person because they smell bad, because their skin color is different, because they “appear” frightening.
We say we want to be challenged in our faith and then run when anything comes along that causes us the smallest amount of discomfort.