The Bum in Church

“Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (Jms. 2:2-4)

God intends that we learn to discriminate between good and evil. Reaching conclusions based on external appearance is evil. This poor man’s appearance speaks of his need for loving care. We are not called to see through people but to see people through.

Within a church one morning there was a current of excitement. Their new pastor had been selected and would be introduced to them today. Everyone filtered in and took their accustomed places in the pews that might as well have had their family name engraved on them. The singing began.

A bum approached the back door of the sanctuary. He was a little bent over, wearing stained sweat pants and a T-shirt advertising beer. His bare feet were dirty. His lengthy hair was uncombed. His face was unshaven.

The ushers offered him a seat in a discreet back pew. He waved them aside and made his way slowly to the front pew. People stared. Some stopped singing in order to make comments to those around them.

This unkempt stranger was introduced as the new pastor of the church. Accepting the microphone he said, “I’m afraid my appearance is a shock. Of course that was intentional. God tells us to welcome a poor man in shabby attire. I want us to be people who do exactly that. It is my intention that we will become known as the people who love the needy in this town, welcoming them into our spotless sanctuary, into our church events, into our lives and families and into the kingdom of God.

“The next time you see me I will be clean shaven and dressed more like you are. But I hope my appearance today has impressed on your heart the message of James 2:2-4, ‘Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?’”

 

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2 thoughts on “The Bum in Church

  1. Yes! But it took a long time (and some powerful examples from church members who led their pastor by example) to truly embrace the honor that is ours to welcome the easily-avoided, easily-dismissed, angels-in-disguise. In our community, when hosting a meal for the homeless, we learned to call them “guests”, and made sure we brought out the good china and silver for them.

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