Got to catch up with an old friend at Panera on Saturday. We’d kind of lost touch since I’d moved from Georgia to Indiana.
Greg’s been through some tough stuff: dad dying of cancer, brother having a mental meltdown leading Greg to move out/be homeless for a few months, feeling repeatedly let down/used by church people most of his life.
He owns a home now, and is looking at being a co-owner in a successful business, which is great.
I always appreciate Greg’s honesty, and there are a couple reminders from his story that I want to take to heart: (he’s given me permission to share)
1. Don’t use people.
This is so easy for anyone to do, and pastors are no exception. Greg’s experience with church has been that the leaders seem to be more interested in what he can do for their ministry than in who he is as a person. I know that I faced that temptation as a church leader myself.
Jesus was always using himself on account of others rather than using others on account of himself. Sure, he enlisted his disciples to help with the work of ministry, but it was clear that this was more for their own benefit and development than for his own (Just look at how many forehead slap moments he had with them in the book of Mark. Talk about patience!).
When we use people, it can be a kind of spiritual and emotional rape; a one night stand at best. It’s actually the opposite of love, and not the Jesus way.
2. Genuinely love people.
It’s so easy to go through the motions with others, isn’t it? We ask how they’re doing, respond politely, make nice small talk, but really, sometimes we could care less.
When Greg was living on couches/out if his car, many church “friends” asked how we was doing. When he told them he was homeless, they responded, “I’ll pray for you” and wished him well.
In contrast, it was Greg’s non-church friends who immediately offered food/a place to stay until he got back on his feet.
The book of James says,
What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do? So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. James 2:14-17 NLT
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it? Romans 12:9 says, “Love must be sincere.”
It’s a wonder that Greg hasn’t completely rejected God based on his experience with Christians. His story is a reminder to genuinely love others and walk the talk, like Jesus.