BY PAUL TEBB
This might seem like a slightly odd choice of things to write about. After all, isn’t it obvious? We do what we do because we care, and have compassion!
This is, of course, completely true but our reason for running a night shelter for the tenth season goes deeper than that. This care and compassion is grounded in strong convictions about who God is and what he has done for us. Simply put: “We love because he (God) first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
For us, this is the starting place. Everything we do flows first from a place of gratitude and thankfulness to God who has first shown his love towards us by sending his own son into his world to willingly die so that we might have true life! At GrowTH our response to this amazing love is to follow Jesus by loving him and loving others in the way he has shown and taught.
God loves the poor and marginalized and so should we
It is clear throughout the whole Bible that God takes the mistreatment and oppression of the poor very seriously. In one place in the Bible it says this:
“Do not exploit the poor because they are poor and do not crush the needy in court for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life” (Psalm 22:22-23).
In another place it states:
“I know that the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and will execute justice for the needy” (Psalm 140:12).
Such strong language shows us something of what God is like, his love for the poor, and his commitment to justice. Perhaps most vividly we see this demonstrated in the life of Jesus in the four gospels. Jesus spent the vast majority of his time with all the ‘wrong people’, according to his enemies. Instead of dining with the elite, wealthy, and prominent in society, he spent most of his time mingling with the poor and marginalised. In fact, Jesus spent so much time with such people that he was even accused of being a “glutton and a drunk” (Luke 7:34). Jesus, however, was not shaken by this. He came with love, mercy, and compassion, ignoring the heckling that surrounded him. Where the culture of the day dictated who was valuable and who could be accepted by God, Jesus came along, turning the culture on its head, announcing that all people, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic status, were loved, invited, and welcomed by God. Jesus lived a radically different life. He did not come to be served as one might expect of a king but to serve (Mark 10:45), and it is this same lifestyle of love, compassion, and service that we want to adopt in what we do here at GrowTH.
All people are "fearfully and wonderfully made"!
It’s worth finishing with one last truth that shapes and drives all that we do; that is that every human being – every guest that comes into the shelter has intrinsic worth and value simply because we are all made by God. We strive to uphold this simple truth in all we do. It is not that we have worth or value due to anything we have done. We don’t earn it from successes and accomplishments. We have worth simply because the creator made us. So when guests come into the shelter, they come in with God-given value and dignity and we seek to maintain that the guests know this and are treated as such both through our words and our actions.
I finish with a verse that sums up what we’re about:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy“. Proverbs 31:8-9.