I HEARD a man speaking to passers-by on a downtown street. He was asking for donations for an organization to help the homeless. ``Forget the common images of the homeless,'' he said. ``The homeless are people just like you and me; they've just lost their homes.'' That, I thought, can point to a helpful change of viewpoint. We can decide to see others as neighbors. It made me more confident that a solution can be found to this problem. Why? Because often the biggest obstacle we face is the notion that those in need deserve their situation, or that maybe even God is punishing them for some error they've made in their lives. While there's no question that sin inevitably punishes itself, what could possibly make us want to help anyone as long as we think his or her problems are God-sent and therefore justified?
Christ Jesus gives us a very different view of God and shows God's love for all. Teaching his followers to love even their enemies, he says, ``...pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.... Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.''1
Here's a God that is unchanging Love. It's clear from Jesus' teachings that God's purpose for each of His offspring is only good. The Master's healings of the sick and the sinner proved that. And they showed that everyone's true identity is now and forever God's whole and pure spiritual likeness.
Although our circumstances were perhaps somewhat different from the kind of misfortune implied earlier, I remember the time my husband and I were homeless. We were without jobs, and our lease had run out on our apartment. A friend was kind enough to take us in while we looked for work, and after a month my husband found a job in a different part of the state. But now the situation looked still more difficult. We had used up every penny of our savings and had no money for a rent payment or a security deposit. And we had no friends in this new town. As we prayed, though, it was clear to us that my husband should take the job and that we should start to look at apartments.
We felt God's love and care for us, and even though we didn't know how this situation would work out, the love we felt made us confident it would. We found a place that hadn't been lived in for a while and needed some work, but it obviously would meet our needs. While we were wondering how to tell the landlord that we had no money, he said to us, ``I can't fix this place up in time for you to move in. If you'll do the cleaning work, I'll let you have the apartment free for the first month with no security deposit.''
I've thought in the years since then of some ways my husband and I might have avoided the circumstances that led to that situation. But God didn't punish us for our foolishness; we found what we needed, and we learned necessary lessons about living more wisely.
In one of her poems, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes, ``O gentle presence, peace and joy and power;/O Life divine, that owns each waiting hour,/Thou Love that guards the nestling's faltering flight!/Keep thou my child on upward wing tonight.''2 God really is a genuine presence that cares for His children, and no one is excluded.
1Matthew 5:44, 45, 48. 2Poems, p. 4.