Personally knowing prostitutes, homeless folks, and addicts changes the way you think about them. Slowly, I'm learning to see them the way Father God does and it is both heart breaking and freeing.
I am no longer as afraid of the kind of people that a few years ago I would have been nervous around or crossed the street to avoid. That part is freeing me from the shackles of fear. But I also hurt for them as I hear their stories and know the hurts they have in their lives that brought them to the places that they are. That part is capturing my heart and making it impossible for me to just look away.
Shane Claiborne said in his book IRRESISTIBLE REVOLUTION:
" I had come to see that the great tragedy of the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor.”
I have seen in my own life that it wasn't that I was stone cold where the poor, and the prostitutes, and the addicts, and the homeless were concerned, I just didn't know them personally. They were nameless faces I passed at stoplights. They were caricatures on movies and tv programs. They were profiles written about in books and magazines. They were not real people.
Well, they were real....just not to me.
But now they are.
I personally know the prostitute who is daily reminded of the man who sexually abused her as a child because she told me about it.
I personally know the alcoholic homeless man who frequently comes to our worship services drunk, but bearing flowers for his favorite missionaries, including me.
I personally know the prostitute who carries around a baby picture of herself because she has shown it to me.
I personally know the older man who used to live in a dog house when his life was ruled by his addiction to crack but now does landscaping and is my youngest daughter's special friend.
I know them and I am learning to love them the way the Father loves them. I still do it quite imperfectly. I still sometimes allow fear and selfishness and prejudice to keep me from loving as I should. I still allow "me" to get in the way of God moving through me as He wants to move though me.
But bit by bit, God's changing me.
And it all started when I made the decision to step out and get to know the "least and lost" --- the poor, the prostitutes, the homeless, the addict --- as real people.
Because that's what they are...real people.
Just like you.
Just like me.
All of us in need of love and God's presence making us new.