Do you know any sign flippers? You know the dudes that stand on busy street corners with giant signs advertising the local cellphone or subway sandwich shop? They usually dance, yell, and flip the sign in order bring in customers. I know the sign flipper on El Cajon and College Ave. His name is Joe. He is new to the job and new to our community. He has a girlfriend from the Ukraine named Arena. He flips a good sign. Not so flashy and flamboyant that you feel awkward at the stop light but also not sleeping on the job. Joe is one of the most encouraging dudes I have met. He loves a good sermon and always lets his pastor know it. The other day at a community baby shower Joe won the, “who can chug root beer out of a baby bottle the fastest contest.” He is a legend around these parts now.
How did I meet Joe? Well the first time was at basketball game at the park right - after he'd drunk a 40. Lately, Joe has been hanging with Doug. Doug is almost 50 and has a big heart for our whole community. Doug is well known for having a pretty sweet ride. He owns a used but fashionable baby stroller that has a bungee corded garbage can connected to it - Big time! The garbage can is filled with empty cans and bottles he recycles. Sometimes it is also loaded with not so empty beer cans too. One week he parked his ride in front of our Sunday gathering, and it was packed.
Welcome to church. Would you like a cold one?
I have spent most of my life believing the lie that the Doug’s and Joe’s of the world aren’t worth my time. And I have been missing out on following my God into an abundant life of service and new friendships.
As a Christian I worship a God that went out of his way to serve those that society had deemed outcast. His band of followers were hated tax collectors, lowly fishermen and prostitutes. He didn’t avoid outcasts. He sought them out and washed their feet. This is the life of Jesus, this is our radical God.
Consider the weight of grace in our everyday life. Jesus says that the last on earth will be the first in the Kingdom of heaven. He even goes as far to say that how we treat the least of these is how we are treating him. Jesus went out of his way to love, cherish, heal and transform the lives of the very least in his city. Grace defines the life Christ lived on earth and the life he calls his disciples to follow him into.
Christ sees beyond our cultural stigmas and stereotypes and instead sees the people he has created to love and be loved, a people that he created to image him. Where the world sees losers and outcast our God sees Kingdom celebrities! Jesus didn’t just start programs for the outcast in his city (not that these are bad) but instead he shared life with them. Today, he invites all of his followers to share life with some of His Kingdom’s most famous people. I don’t want to miss out on this!
Scared by Grace?
From the outside, taking grace to the streets looks scary and lame, but Christ promises that he came to give life abundant. Jesus is not just talking about having a free meal or a program. Instead, Christ invites us to share his grace with even the most disenfranchised. To share grace with some of His Kingdom’s most famous people!
Our church doesn’t have any programs for feeding the homeless and/or impoverished. We have grown in knowing the Kingdom celebrities in our community by sharing our lives with them. We simply hang out where they hang out and invite them to hang out with us. We play basketball, board games, laugh, share meals, watch movies and help each other out. That’s right, we help each other out!
Even the most downtrodden folks have some mad skills, and if you get to know them you will find many are often eager to help and serve. My deck was just re-stained while I was on vacation by a good friend who without Christ I would have missed out on even knowing.
Keeping it Real
I don’t want to paint an unrealistic picture, loving and living out grace to Kingdom celebrities can be messy, heartbreaking, exhausting and expensive. But last I checked, Christ endured much more to love me and he did it for the joy set before him. Loving and following Jesus into the nooks and crannies of your city will cost you everything, but it will gain you much more.
Jesus says that how we treat the least of these is how we are treating him. He identifies with the hurting and broken to the point of dying a torturous death on a filthy Roman cross. He died the death that was created to publicly humiliate the very worst people in all of society. And he chose this death for the joy set before him. The joy of seeing lives be restored and stories be redeemed.
The gospel reminds us that we are the least of these. Identifying with the messy and broken should be easy for a group of people that believe they are so messy and broken God had to shed his blood to restore them.
The first step to loving the poor and disenfranchised in your city is realizing you are the least of these. From the CEO of the multi-million dollar company to the cashier at the taco stand, we all are equally poor and broken without Christ. And we all have the potential to be eternally rich with Christ!
We serve the broken because we are broken and he serves us. We love the unlovable because we are unlovable and he loves us.
These truths take the pressure off. We can love those different than us by living normal life together. Learn each others stories, hang out, share a meal, play a game and help each other out. That’s right, help each other out! You will be surprised who can serve, help and encourage you when you realize you are just another broken human in need of Jesus.
So who do you name drop? Do you know the people in your neighborhood that Jesus considers famous? Do you treat the CEO differently than the sign-flipper? Are you more patient with the rich and famous than the down and out?
I know the sign flipper on El Cajon and College Ave. His name is Joe.
Jake Chambers: A member of Jesus’ bride - the church, husband to his beautiful bride Lindsey, and a daddy to his boy Ezra. Jake is passionate about seeing the gospel both transform lives and create communities that love Jesus, the city, and the lost. He currently serves Red Door Church through leading, preaching, equipping, and pastoring. You can read more of his writing at reddoorlife.tv.
For a more in-depth discussion of authentically living out the mission of the gospel, check out Jonathan Dodson's Unbelievable Gospel.
For free articles on blending gospel-centered mission and community in the your everyday life, read: Lindsay Fooshee's The Unqualified Disciple, Winfield Bevins' How Jesus Made Disciples, and Jeff Vanderstelt's Gospel Hospitality.