Saturday, April 19, 2014

Homeless Jesus

The Christian Left

A couple of years ago I was introduced to the Christian Left, a Facebook page for Christians, such as myself, who hold a progressive/liberal worldview. Besides all of the politics that are discussed, they also delve deeply into social justice. As an officer in The Salvation Army, this appeals to me greatly. Once, they showed a picture of the sculpture "Homeless Jesus," done by Canadian artist, Timothy Schmalz.

As one can see, it is a statue of a homeless figure, wrapped in a cloak, and one can only tell that it is Jesus through his pierced feet. I was struck immediately by the powerful message behind this sculpture:

"I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in" -- Matthew 25:43 (NASB)

I was and continue to be deeply moved by this statue. It represents to me my mission as an officer in The Salvation Army:  "Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me."


I found out that one of these statues was purchased by some parishioners of St. John's Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, which is very close to me. I had to go see it. So I traveled down this morning for my own little pilgrimage to this statue.

Once again I was impressed by the simplicity of this message.

I have had some friends complain about the cost of this statue (approximately $22,000). I was not disturbed by this act of devotion. It reminded me very much of Judas Iscariot complaining to Jesus when a woman opened up a bottle of pure nard perfume, worth approximately $51,000 in today's reckoning. People said that this money could have been better used to actually help the poor, just like Judas said.

Even this church received complaints from their own parishioners regarding the expense of the statue. Wherever this statue has been erected, it causes people to either love it or despise it, as evidenced in this article.

My problem with this complaint is that the vast majority of people who complain about wasted funds do actually nothing to help the poor. They are offended even by the idea of the appearance of someone homeless in the neighborhood.

The Homeless and the Foreigner

People do not like having to confront the homeless. In my own community of Ludington, several organizations have attempted to establish a homeless shelter, but zoning is next to impossible to get approval for a shelter and if it is approved, the neighbors don't want the homeless near them. Often the homeless in Ludington have to resort to either couch surfing or tenting. Those who couch surf don't consider themselves to be homeless.

Tenting is illegal within the city limits, with the exception of campgrounds, which the homeless cannot afford. However, I do know of some property owners who allow the homeless to tent, despite the ordinances against them.

I have also been aghast at how we treat the undocumented immigrants in our country. The United States is not the only one with this problem. When I was in Germany, foreigners were also viewed as encroaching on their rights. However, the undocumented immigrants contribute more to the economy than we would believe. They often do the jobs that no one else wants to do. Since they are undocumented, their employers can treat them in the worst way possible and they have no recourse.

It is convenient to say from the comfort of being a citizen that these immigrants should go about the proper way to enter the country. In that case, I would recommend that they try themselves to immigrate to another country to see how easy it is. It isn't. Even for Americans, it is not so simple to move to another country. (For my example, see the blog I wrote here.)

It is easier for the public to turn a blind eye and think that there is no homeless or foreigner problem. To them I say, with Jesus, "I was a stranger and you did not invite Me in."

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