Yesterday, as I was exiting the parking lot of the grocery store, a middle aged woman crossed in front of me holding a cardboard sign. I had just enough time to read "Homeless...Need Help...God Bless You" as I passed by. I drove along trying to think of how I could help her with my three kids in car seats and two weeks worth of carefully planned menus in the trunk. By the time I decided to invite her out to lunch and just talk to her, it was too late. She had already left.
Why did it take so long for me to formulate a plan? I am realizing that I am a slave to institutionalized thinking, a slave to organized religion. All my life I have heard or been shown:
1. Don't talk to strangers.
2. Give poor people food, not money.
3. Let the shelters and other ministries take care of them.
But that is a far cry from what our Lord and his apostles taught us:
1. Entertain the stranger.
2. Give to anyone who asks you.
3. Do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. Official ministries make their good deeds obvious. For practical reasons, of course. But if every follower of Jesus were in the habit of helping whoever God might bring into their path, not even thinking about the hows and whys and proper ways of dong good, I think God would be better pleased with us.
I hope God will give me another chance soon. I also ask the aid of his Spirit to help me unlearn the habits of thought I have been a slave to, particularly those of practicality and realism. The reality is that the cost of discipleship is very high. In fact, it costs everything.