I have two children who have a pretty serious love of animals. Abbie’s passion is the more pronounced of the two, for sure. She once declared that she was a vegetarian, until she realized that meant eliminating McDonald’s chicken nuggets.
I told her those were only meat in a marginal sense, but that’s another story.
Animal lovers always have a propensity to bring home strays. All of our dogs and cats are strays that we’ve discovered in one way or another. We’ve also had a couple of lizards (one that we discovered petrified under Spencer’s bed after a couple of months), a frog or two, a baby bird, and a pretty hefty supply of fireflies.
If Spencer had his way, we would have had a baby boar that was roaming the fields behind our house. I think we’re all glad that small boars are much faster than eight year olds.
The great thing about this love, particularly in Abbie, is that there is absolutely no judgment involved. It has nothing to do with how “well-bred” the animal is, who the parents are, or how dirty they may be. It really doesn’t matter how much the bill is going to be. She just sees a need and wants to meet it. She recognizes the need to love and she offers it.
If only we could be so compassionate to other human beings…
First off, let me say that I am NOT comparing people to animals here. I’m simply trying to illustrate how we sometimes treat people like “strays,” and perhaps even treat them worse than we would treat an animal.
Let’s face it, “strays” are not profitable for the church. They are a drain on resources. They will not be tithing members–and if they were, it wouldn’t be a very big tithe anyway. They have wounds and scars and a trail of trash dragging behind them (in polite society we call it “baggage”). Perhaps we see the needle marks on their arms or smell the dirt of the streets on their clothes.
But they are human beings. And they need to be much more than just a “stray” to us, more than just another “burden” on our resources.
In a church world where profitability is often a major consideration–and it is, no matter how much some churches deny it–the “strays” of society receive less and less. Perhaps they do not feel worthy to enter the million-dollar buildings that we create for ourselves.
Or perhaps the Bible study on managing your money to maximize your retirement fund doesn’t really appeal to them.
Lots of churches are doing lots of things to help the poor. But how willing are we to invite them into the house and treat them like one of the family?
My vision–and I hope it is a Christ-centered, Spirit-driven one–is to see a church that is open to all kinds of “strays”, and not just when Samaritan House is running. The doors need to be open on Sundays (or any other day) as well. It really isn’t about filling the roll book or increasing the offering totals. If those are our primary goals, then we should change the sign to “Augusta Heights, Inc.”
The longer I do this, the more I am convinced of the truth of James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
May we repent for closing the doors of our hearts to those that the world–and quite often the church–label as the “strays” of society. This doesn’t just include people who are struggling with finances. It includes those who are struggling with spiritual issues, family issues, mental health, addiction, and just the general personal battles that face so many of us in daily life.
I hope that we will become a place where we can ALL share those struggles, and where God will judge our “religion” to be “pure and faultless” because we open the doors to anyone in distress.
It’s not just about giving a few dollars. If we will open our homes for a struggling animal, how much more should we open the door for a human being?
Jesus compels us to do nothing less.