Street Links 2012 – God does not show favouritism.


Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (Jas 2:5)

I attended the Street Links event in Ipswich this week. Last time I was there, I was as part of one of the stalls as a “provider”, on behalf of Chat Room. This time I was there because it was Tuesday, and it was in the mall, and I hang out with my friends in the mall on a Tuesday.

The National Australia Bank cooked hamburgers all day and the Salvo’s had their coffee van. We had live music, and everything was free, so on a chilly day, it was fantastic to just eat and drink, and catch up with friends!

All my friends had a great day, and they got plenty of free stuff. Someone was giving out blankets, which was very welcome, and there were personal health products, clothing, food, and various other items being handed out, too. The third-year psych student who was conducting a feedback survey seemed to be getting a lot  of benefit from mixing it with all of my amazing friends. Two of the stallholders had conversations with me that they’ll remember fondly for a long time, because on the day, those were the people to whom God wanted to speak (through me).

The “thought for the day” was that God does not discriminate. People are people. At events such as this, it is always vital to tear down the tribal divide between the “helpers” and the “helped”. Everyone’s just a person. If a person is placed in the role of “the helped”, they are potentially being dehumanised in ways that they are unlikely to be able fully to articulate, and using words like “shame” in the attempt. The same person, placed in the role of “helper”, becomes empowered and dramatically increases their emotional resilience… and that saves lives when you’re living on the street.

People who access charitable services run the very grave risk of gaining temporal help, but losing their dignity in the process. As The Boss says, “what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matt 16:26, Mk 8:36, lk 9:25). In providing help to people, we must not steal from them their dignity. Unfortunately it lurks in us all to find “those less fortunate”, in order to see ourselves important by comparison. Because this is almost universally so in the human nature, people’s dignity is compromised all too often when they access charitable services. It is difficult to see the subtly patronising and humiliating truth unless you try accessing charity yourself, especially if you have ministered or worked in that capacity.

In my experience, a person who accesses charitable services needs to have it affirmed to them that they are someone who helps others, because this is where humanity consists. Just because they’re struggling with bills, or housing, or drugs, or whatever, doesn’t change their need to see themselves as a nett “giver” in the human story.It is very simple to achieve this, because in the vast majority of cases it is true in their own experience of life! What it requires on my part, is to discern the person’s perspective on their own life and identify where they see their own positive contribution to humanity… and then I just affirm it! When they can’t see it themselves, I pray to have it shown to me (a prayer that my Father does not hesitate to answer), and then I reveal it to them (often resulting in an emotionally charged moment).

This process turns a charity case into a human being.

It turns ministry into friendship.

It turns a community the kingdom of God.

Because in the kingdom of God, everyone is a person.


 

 

“As for those who were held in high esteem—

whatever they were makes no difference to me;

God does not show favoritism” (Gal 2:6)

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