Harbor Community Church had an “interesting” Sunday.
Immediately following the service, a number of volunteers cleaned our chairs as well as the YMCA hallways; both of which were stained by last season’s basketball and 10 weeks of summer camps. Just as we began to devour the delectable Hungry Howies pizzas, a dude with a wristband from the hospital walked into the YMCA. Then on to the gym, and then back to our “commons area,” and heading straight for the pizza. Pizza is my “precious.”
I asked him, “Can I help you sir?” He immediately took a 90 degree turn and headed out towards the door. Honestly I was glad because I didn’t get the best vibe from him. My only thought was “get him away from the pizza and toward the door.” I just didn’t want him around.
Immediately some women put a piece of pizza on a plate and told me to bring it to him. All I cared about was getting him outside. Then one woman said, “Geoff, you just preached how God wants us to love the ugly, difficult people, and how people are made in God’s image.”
Wow. They were paying attention and challenged me to practice what I preached. They were right. So I grabbed the pizza, and head out the door to catch this guy. He gladly accepted the pizza, asked me, “Are there any kids around here?” I told him no, so he took something out of his pockets. Immediately I regretted answering his question in the negative.
So he pulls out a water bottle from his pocket and asks me for some change. I told him I didn’t have any, and he once again, rotated 90 degrees, and then walked off.
Honestly I didn’t feel good about this guy and wanted to get rid of him. I think my heart, as far as I can remember, was focused primarily on the security of our folks. But in my concern for safety, I had failed to see him as made in the image of God. He had dignity. He had needs. Even though we really couldn’t help him much, we could at least meet the need for food.
To love your people well requires concern for their safety. Some leaders had already followed this guy and invited him to leave. We had that covered.
But to love others outside the church (and to model such love), particularly as they walk in your church requires mercy. Some ladies, with glad appreciation for those who directed this gentlemen to the door, also sought an opportunity to show kindness. They simply “looked,” putting arms to the sermon application and one of our core values: “looking.” We need both safety and mercy in the church body. I am thankful we have both types of folks at Harbor, because I’m insufficient on my own. While humbling, I’m as needy as I am grateful to have folks who help me practice what I preach.