I live in what is known as the Bible Belt. People here are said to be conservative, God fearing, and God serving people. We are said to be a community of integrity.
About a year ago, as our country continued to struggle with the recession and unemployment rates skyrocket, Tent City was formed in downtown Lubbock, TX. This area became a community of individuals governed by the same rules and laws we are follow along with some of their own “community regulations”. Families, couples, and individuals set up their tents and lived there. Each person living in Tent City has a different story and each person reacts to their circumstances differently. As Tent City began to grow, business owners and local officials began to fear the “outward appearance” of this area to potential businesses coming to the area. Local officials and city ordinances had already previously caused this group of homeless to move from the different areas of town to this “localized” area. Now, officials were concerned about how the city would lose money and economic growth because of this “group of people”. A homeless committee was even formed by the city to try to determine how the city could help the homeless. A local ministry stepped up to the calling when the city was ready to ban Tent City from it’s location. Link Ministries took Tent City to private property to provide assistance by a non-profit, faith based organization. Since then people and other organizations have teamed up to try to bring support to those living in Tent City. I have personally found it a humbling blessing and honor to reach out and minister to AND be ministered to by the people of Tent City. NOW our lovely Zoning and Planning Commission has rejected the request by Link Ministries to rezone their private property to allow them to continue to have Tent City on their property. One city council member was even quoted as saying “I don’t think anybody in their right mind ever thought the tent city was going to be a permanent solution for the homeless issue here in Lubbock”.
We were told by City Council members and City officials that the homeless were the responsibility of the community and not businesses or the city, and yet when people try to bring assistance to the homeless we are met with opposition. At one point we have even been told that we need health inspections in our kitchens if we want to hand out food! There is more red tape to get through simply to extend Christ to our homeless than there is to get through airport security.
Daily we see how our community is bombarded with sex, drugs, human trafficking, child abuse, murder, theft, hatred, and suicide. God is clear in His word. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 1 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:7-10
Furthermore, Jesus tells us how HE wants us to treat the least of these:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46
I look around and am in constant intercession for my city and the people here. I am truly disappointed and at times discouraged by how our officials respond to difficult situations. There is always grace and God will always make a way. In reality each one of us is one bad decision, one turn of the table, one stock market point, one terminal illness, or one medical bill away from being one of the least of these. “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.” Galatians 6:2,3