Faith in Action
A homeless man came in our church service last Sunday. This is not unusual. We have homeless people frequent our services almost every week, but this man looked particularly disheveled. He wore an oversized trench coat that was two sizes too big. He didn’t have on any shoes, and he had a hospital bracelet around his wrist. He looked lost and confused. I had never seen him before, and when he walked in, my first reaction was to keep a close eye on him. As I preached, I often glanced in his direction, wondering if this may be the first time in a long time he had been in a church service. During the service, I thought to myself, this man probably needs to hear the Gospel, and I am going to be the one to preach it to him! So, I preached my heart out, I gave the invitation, and I waited for this man to respond to the message by coming forward with a decision. He never did. He just sat in his seat, patiently waiting for the service to end. We prayed the last prayer, and I stood at the back door shaking hands as I do every Sunday.
I was getting ready return to the worship center and gather my things for departure, when a hand caught mine. “That man needs some shoes,” they said, “Brother Josh is going to get him some out of the clothes closet. Maybe he will find some socks for him, too.” Then another person stopped me. “That man needs some food. Can I have your key to the pantry to fix him a bag?” I willingly gave them the key and walked toward the pantry. Then another member caught me. “I am going to give that man some cash so he can get something to eat or find a place to stay,” she said; “Can you give it to him?” Predictably, the first thing to cross my mind was the thought that he may use the cash for something other than food or a place to stay. I thought about bringing it up, but I knew this lady knew that this was a likelihood. She already recognized that he could use the money on drugs or alcohol or that he simply may lose it before he left the building. She had thought of the possibilities, but she didn’t care. She gave me the money and told me to give it to him.
When I finally made it back to the worship center, someone from our church had already given the man clothes, food, and shoes. “The shoes fit him perfectly,” one man told me. Several others had taken the time to sit with him and hear his story. They told me that he had been beaten up, that he had just gotten out of the hospital, and that he had nowhere else to go. I suppose that in an act of sheer desperation, he walked through the doors of our church trying to find help. When I finally made it to where he was sitting, he told me a little bit about himself. I gave him the money and told him some other places he could go to find help. My associate pastor and I prayed with him. Then he began to weep. All he could really say was “thank you,” then he got up and left.
I don’t know where he went; I will probably never see him again. I can’t even remember his name. I don’t know if this man ever found the help he was seeking. I don’t know if he used the money we gave him wisely or if he spent it on wild living. I will never know. It doesn’t even matter. The only thing I really do know is that I was proud of our church in that moment. I was proud because they chose to “give without expecting anything in return.” They chose to care for the “least of these.” They chose to “show their faith by their deeds.” They chose to show this man, with their actions, that God really does care.
When this drifter first walked in the doors, I presumed that he needed to hear the Gospel, and I’m sure he did. But maybe he didn’t need to hear it in the form of a sermon. Maybe he needed to hear it in action and in deeds. He needed to know that someone cared enough to bring him a pair of shoes. He needed to see that someone cared enough to prepare a snack bag without even knowing who would receive it. He needed to realize that someone was willing to give money to him without expecting anything in return, that someone was willing to stop and take time to listen to him. Our church’s actions preached the Gospel louder and clearer than my sermon ever could that day.
Our church members response to this man reminded me of James 2:15-16, “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
If there is one thing that I have always loved about Main Street, it is that Main Street is a place that is full of people who back up their faith with their actions. You see, no one in our church is really wealthy. In fact, most of our members are just barely getting by. Most of them are living paycheck to paycheck. Some of them are homeless, and some of them are in danger of becoming homeless every month. But that has never stopped them from giving. That has never stopped them from living out their faith. It has never stopped them from preaching the Gospel with their words and their actions. Our church is full of people who live out their faith, and they don’t just live it out on Sunday mornings. The sacrificial love our church people showed to this homeless man is the same love they bring to their church, to their neighborhood, and to their families every day of their lives. It is the same sacrificial love that Jesus showed us, and it is the love he calls every Christian to show to others.
If you are looking for a great church family, we would love for you to check us out on Sundays at 10:30am. We are far from perfect. We have our bumps and bruises along the way. Sometimes we don’t love as well as we should, and sometimes are the one’s who need to be shown sacrificial love. But still, our church is our family, our church is our home, and we are proud to follow Jesus together. We are proud to live out our faith in action with one another.