A new life-size, bronze statue of Christ has been showing up at some churches. Depicted as a homeless person, he is obscured in blankets and lying on a bench. The only markers of divinity are crucifixion wounds on his feet.
When an Episcopalian church in a wealthy section of Davidson, N.C., recently installed its copy of “Jesus the Homeless,” the reaction was immediate — loved by some, hated by others.
“One woman from the neighborhood actually called the police the first time she drove by,” reported DavidsonNews.net editor David Boraks. “She thought it was an actual homeless person.”
The work of art is a literal interpretation. Verses about Jesus the drifter overwhelm the scant reference to his abandoned carpentry (Mark 6:3). There is no mention of him drawing a salary, contributing to a retirement plan or juggling multiple donkey payments.
Jesus indicated in Matthew that treatment of the poor is equal to treatment of him. Scripture consistently teaches that kindness to those in poverty won’t just be rewarded in heaven, it is the only righteous path — lest someone try to fit even a skinny camel through a needle’s eye. Throughout Scripture, failure to show compassion has grave and permanent consequences. “Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy” (Ezekiel 16:49).
Why then is it noble in some circles to cast derision on the “lazy and ignorant” who would surely be productive members of society if they could be bothered enough to get a job?
Iglesia Mennonita Unida De Avivamienta (United Revival Mennonite Church) in New York City was blessed with 12 vacant lots. Rather than bury them for safekeeping (Matt. 25:14-28), they are expanding their worship facilities and erecting compassionate living spaces for those in their immediate community who need it most.
Because United Revival pursued highly efficient “passive house” design and building concepts, the tenants — all of whom earn a fraction of New York City’s median income and/or have family members with disabilities — are doubly blessed. The 90 percent reduction in utility costs will be a significant savings for the two dozen families who get to live in the building called “The Mennonite.”
A welcoming servant to those in need, able to stay cool in heated moments and efficient with its resources, Brooklyn’s newest apartments are an inspiring illustration of caring for the environment and the poor. May we live up to its name and example.
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