Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sparrows, Saints, and Sinners

We were walking down the sidewalk in Destin the other day, leaving one store for the next, on the hunt for some new walking shoes. Bunny and I have recently returned to walking and are enjoying it. On the way to the next store, I saw several sparrows darting in and out of the shrubbery. At first, I thought "well, here in Destin, if you can find anything not man made, good for you."

But then I looked again and saw that the reason they were there was because the Wild Bird store had placed a feeding station outside for them.

Inside that store, you can find anything you want to attract, feed, and care for wild birds. Birdhouses for every species, watering helps, and of course bird food in the varieties needed for the different birds. There are bird pictures, bird screensavers, bird statues, bird sweatshirts, bird clocks, even bird hats. If you love wild birds, that's your place.

When I thought about it later, I realized that there must be more to the owner's motivation than just profit. If money was all they were after, then why give away your products to sparrows?

Because they genuinely love wild birds.

Let me ask all the "church folks" a question if I could. If we say we love people just as they are, then how often do we find ourselves giving away that love outside our "store"? And how often do we give it away to people who like those sparrows most likely will never become "paying" customers?

It struck me today that most churches and church leaders look at a community and think, who can we reach to make our "business" prosper - grow bigger, take in more money, build more buildings, be more visible and known. Yet Jesus, instead of focusing His efforts on the movers and shakers in the community, went instead to the sinners, to the broken, to those who society wouldn't notice.

Or said another way, "the least of these."

If we genuinely want to follow Jesus, it's going to mean we find ourselves outside our "store", giving the love of Jesus in tangible ways to people who may not fit the model we have of someone we'd choose to love. To those who are hurting, addicted, broken, poor, and weak. People like that are the "sparrows" for us. Our test is this - are we in love with the idea of Jesus' power to change lives, or will we practice it?

44 "Then those 'goats' are going to say, 'Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or homeless or shivering or sick or in prison and didn't help?'
45 "He will answer them, 'I'm telling the solemn truth: Whenever you failed to do one of these things to someone who was being overlooked or ignored, that was me— you failed to do it to me.'

Matt 25:44-45 (MSG)


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