Bringing Compassion Back into Faith

Jeremy Reynalds, founder of an emergency homeless shelter in Albuquerque, calls on fellow evangelicals to practice the compassion they preach:

I’m an evangelical Christian, although I’m hesitant to use that word because of the negativity it routinely engenders.

I prefer to think of myself as an ordinary person who loves Jesus and wants to spend his remaining days helping people.

At one point not so long ago I considered myself a proud conservative evangelical Republican Christian.

Now I’m just me, conservative in some aspects, liberal in others and loving Jesus in all.

So what happened? Well, I’m no longer willing to subscribe to the political correctness which dominates so much of evangelical “orthodoxy.” To be honest, I don’t think some of it is very, well, “Christian.”

Let me explain. Here are some examples.

I founded Joy Junction, New Mexico’s largest emergency homeless shelter, over 25 years ago. We shelter as many as 300 people nightly and feed as many as 16,000 meals a month. Six thousand of those meals are served on our mobile feeding unit, The Lifeline of Hope, which cris crosses Albuquerque seven days a week.

In addition to the Lifeline meals being potential life savers, we also regard this street outreach as an integral part of relationship building. Many of the people whom we assist have been hurt both emotionally and physically in unimaginable ways.

For example. A few weeks ago, we offered a guy a hygiene kit which he initially refused, as “I get plenty from the trash.” He accepted when I told him he deserved better than that. What had he experienced for him to think like that?

More recently, we gave three pairs of socks to a woman who was outside with bare feet. (We didn’t have any shoes with us, or else we would have provided them). She appeared intoxicated and quite possibly high. While some of you may disapprove, I believe that what we did was an action of which Jesus would have approved.

It took years for these individuals to get to the place they’re at. It may take as long for them to get back on their feet.

We believe giving hungry people a meal and more is the right thing to do, the “Christian” thing. Sadly, some evangelicals feel that continuing to feed the hungry a meal (or many meals) is “enabling” them. Really? I have yet to hear substantive answers about what to do with all those people we should quit feeding.

I guess the government could do it, but that’s something about which conservatives have been complaining for years!

Here’s something definitely controversial; “harm reduction.” That’s the giving of clean needles to drug addicts and condoms to sex workers and others. Like many evangelicals, I used to criticize harm reduction workers as promoting irresponsible sex and illegal drug use. The problem was, I had never bothered to talk with them.

Once I did, I found they’re not promoting random sex or drug use. They’re attempting to keep hurting people alive until they’re ready to seek the recovery they need to stay alive. Shouldn’t evangelicals be applauding that? You can’t preach the Gospel to a dead person.

Something is smelling decidedly bad in evangelical paradise. It’s unconscionable not to feed a hungry person or help a sick, addicted hurting person stay alive.

What’s wrong with evangelicals? Shouldn’t we who say we have been forgiven so much by a loving God want to share that same love with those in need?

Then there’s the political/religious right issue, with evangelical Christians still mistakenly holding to the belief that a change in presidents will mean a profound change in our country’s direction.

It seems to me that evangelicals are being coopted by a political party and reduced to a voting bloc. How tragic!

There’s one way our country is changed. As Christians live out the tenets of God’s Word, quit judging and focusing on two or three litmus test issues, the world will see that we are Christians by our love and profoundly amazing things will happen.

Learn more about Reynalds’ homeless shelter, Joy Junction, here.

4 thoughts on “Bringing Compassion Back into Faith

  1. This is desperately needed. It’s something I’ve written many blogs about. The Christian Right seems to have forgotten what Christ did and said. That’s why I left the church I had been attending and am working with a pastor online.