He is so thrilled to be a part of providing housing so folks could leave the evacuee shelters. Personally witnessing some of these people move into their new, safe, air conditioned, clean, and private trailer homes thrilled him. But he added in his note, "Please remember to pray for the people who have hardened their hearts as well. ___ Parish ... voted to not allow any of these relocation trailer homes into their parish. While they claim their infrastructure won't support the influx of evacuees, their own words convict them of their real motivation. As one man put it, 'We don't want the New Orleans Ghetto in our parish.'"
Apparently there are several parishes in Louisiana that will not even take in their own fellow Louisianans. Being in a state that has taken in 575,000 people from Louisiana and knowing dozens upon dozens of churches who have taken in people into their gyms, fellowship halls, camps, and family life centers, I have to say, learning this "scorched my grits." On a deeper, humanitarian level, it incensed me. As a Christian, my reaction was righteous indignation.
"Don't these folks remember what Jesus said?" I asked myself. I was thinking of the famous sheep and goats passage of Matthew 25. The key verses in this connection are the following:
[Jesus said about the last judgment] "Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, 'Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his demons! For I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me anything to drink. I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me no clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me.'
"Then they will reply, 'Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?' And he will answer, 'I assure you, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me.'" (Matthew 25:31-45 NLT)
But then the Lord went to work on me, as he so often does ....
The same day I received my friend's email, I also attended a great preaching seminar. As the final event of the seminar, the presenter used the Matthew 25 sheep and goats text as his topic. His point was that we are all goats. We've all walked past a beggar on the street corner, a widow's yard that needs mowing, a jail full of inmates that need a visit ... Without the grace of Jesus, he reminded us, none of us makes it in as a sheep; we're all goats without grace.
Does that release these hard-hearted folks off the hook? Absolutely not! But, my friend, who will spend his nights in a 50 acre tent city away from home for the next several months to help the evacuees got it right: I need to pray for those who are hard-hearted.
In addition, I also need to give thanks to God for the grace that I've received and pass it on to others. God is looking for people to be conduits of his blessings and grace — like my friend who is giving up a whole lot to try to help these displaced people in ways most of us cannot. I can't let the hard-hearted demoralize me, embitter me, or distract me from my roll in Jesus' plan. I'm here to serve him — whether it is in church on Sunday or on the streets when I see him in the hungry, forgotten, displaced, confused, or imprisoned.
Because of grace, I hope to act more like a sheep than a goat. Want to join me?