What says more about who you are in Christ? How loudly you say AMEN in the service or how well you treat strangers in the foyer?
— Mike Yankoski, Under the Overpass
We had the great privilege of having Mike Yankoski speak in chapel yesterday at Cedarville University. I was further extended a personal invitation to join Mike and a few other students and faculty for a formal lunch in the President’s Dining Room on campus after his talk. Now, before I go on, I must preface this brief reflection by saying that a) I am ashamed to say I have not yet made the time to read his book, and b) it is currently 3 am, and I must cut this quite short. That being said, it is necessary to solidify my thoughts on this digital notepad before they got lost in the thoughts of tomorrow.
In short, Mike’s journey began when he and a friend decided to embark on an intentional five-month immersion into homelessness in six American cities. He admits that even this radical decision was not at all in equivalence to the lives of those who are legitimately on the streets indefinitely and without hope of escape, but the people they met and testimonies they came away with are invaluable to the North American Church. The stories he told during chapel were both shocking and humbling in regards to how the poor and marginalized are actually treated, contrary to conventional middle-class perception.
One instance puts him and his friend in a Subway restaurant dining room at noonday with no means or intentions to buy food, but merely basking in the relief that water and air condition brought. While they sat, three different groups of Christians made their way, one at a time, into the other three corners of the spare dining room and held Bible studies. Upon realizing the other groups’ presence, the three small groups mingled in the middle and formed a larger fellowship group over the study of the Bible. Over the course of the lunch hour, the Christians, undoubtedly delighting Mike and Sam at the prospect of one of them possibly offering food, made every effort to rather completely ignore the obvious homeless men in the corner. The Christians concluded their conversation and left to return to their various jobs at the end of the lunch hour, throwing their uneaten subs away, without ever even making eye contact to Mike and Sam.
This story deeply grieves me as I believe this is the most common response present within North American evangelicalism today. And of these, I am the worst! This is so often my response to the poor as well! Why is this? If I claim to believe the Bible and proclaim with my mouth my intentions of living it, but yet fail in obeying passages like Matt. 25:40, I am acting as a flat-out hypocrite. God help me to see and respond to those whom you care deeply about! Please keep me accountable in my pursuit of showing compassion and selflessness in my life.
Balancing Theology and Action
That being said, one of the most valuable nuggets Mike reminded me of over lunch was this idea of “leveling out the pendulum” of my perspective of the Christian’s life. Theology without action is in vain, but likewise radically pursuing justice and compassion without the backbone of a Biblical framework is also in vain. Jesus both studied and taught Bible, but also loved and deeply grieved over the pains of the marginalized in society. I want to be in that same mind.
His story, as shared in his book, is in the process of being produced into a Hollywood production. If all goes well, he hopes to see it released by the end of 2012. He is asking us to pray that Hollywood would produce it in such a way that God is given much glory, without sacrificing professional quality in the production.
I want to be selfless today. Shoot, a perfect God died for me so that I would no longer be Homeless… I must pay it forward.
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