Through this blog I’ve shared some of the things God has taught me in the past six years or so about His heart for those the world often chooses to avoid or ignore.  But in the midst of discovering these things, there has been a far deeper theological lesson He has been writing on my heart.

Last spring I read a book that resonated so deeply with some of the experiences I’ve had that I just wanted to underline everything and say, “Yes, this is what I’ve been trying to say!”  Same Kind of Different as Me is a wonderful book for many reasons I couldn’t adequately describe to you.  You would just need to read it for yourself.  (My husband would attest to this.) 

But I will provide a disclaimer that it is not an easy book to read.  It’s the story of two very unlikely friends, a homeless man and a wealthy man, and the woman that brought them together in the first place.  It’s much more than that, but I would not attempt to provide further description.  It’s a true story, the kind that only God can write. 

There is one particular passage in the book that helps explain the lesson I’ve been learning:

“I used to spend a lotta time worryin that I was different from other people, even from other homeless folks.  Then, after I met Miss Debbie and Mr. Ron, I worried that I was so different from them that we wadn’t ever gon’ have no kind a’ future.  But I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me.  We’re all just regular folks walkin down the road God done set in front of us.  The truth about it is, whether we is rich or poor or somethin in between, this earth ain’t no final restin place.  So in a way, we is all homeless – just workin our way toward home.”  (p.235)

Some people might think I’ve gone crazy over poverty issues.  Some might say I’ve “found a cause.”  Some people might think I’ve just been going through a phase. 

But I assure you it’s no phase. 

Because at the core of it has been a lesson in understanding who God is and who we are.  All of us. 

Every single human being who walks this earth is just that – human.  Whether we treat them that way or not.  Whether we look at them that way or not.

Over these last few years, I’ve read the Gospels in a new way that has greatly increased my affection for my Savior.  I have observed the ways that Jesus treated people and interacted with them.  It has been deeply humbling and yet it has made me love Him even more.

Through the stories of His own life, Jesus has shown me that there is no one beyond His reach.  No one who requires too much effort.  No one too messy.  No one who is not worth His time. 

I think we say these things a lot in church.  We often give a lot of lip service to the fact that no sin is too great for God to forgive, that no one is too far gone to be redeemed, that every person deserves a second chance, that we have not earned the grace we have received. 

But we get up from our pews and walk out of the church doors, and we continue to condemn what we determine is failure in others, even as we make excuses for our own shortcomings. 

Please hear me when I say that what I am sharing here comes out of a deep jealousy for the Church to have ever-increasing love for her Bridegroom. 

I have learned more about mercy and grace in these last six years than I ever had in the previous twenty-one.  I have seen brokenness that I never knew existed in this country.  I have also seen condemnation and judgment and a deep misunderstanding that I wish I could pretend did not exist. 

And in the midst of it all, God has knit in my heart a deeper understanding of just how broken my own soul is by bringing my life together with those whose brokenness is openly displayed for the world to see. 

Or for the world to turn away from if she can’t stand the sight of it. 

I have often said in the past few years that poor people and rich people are equally broken.  It’s just that rich people can afford a mask to cover it up.

There’s a reason why Jesus said the poor are blessed and the Kingdom belongs to them (Luke 6:20). 

Fascinatingly, Luke and Matthew use the same Greek word in the Beatitudes to describe both “poor” and “poor in spirit”.  The New Testament Lexical Aids in my Bible indicate that this word comes from a word meaning “to crouch, cower like a beggar; someone in abject poverty, utter helplessness, complete destitution; one who had fallen from a better estate; one who has nothing at all.”

The poor understand how to be poor in spirit.  The rest of us don’t realize that blessing comes from that posture toward God and man.

I’ve come to a point where I don’t want to play games anymore.  I care nothing for living life in such a way that makes others even suspect that I think myself superior to them.  I desire to live in such a way as to make others feel respected and loved, no matter what they’ve done and no matter how many times they’ve done it.  Has my flesh mastered this yet?  No.  But every day I want to become more and more like my Savior, especially in the way that He treated people.  And I know that His actions flowed from having a right attitude toward them.

One of the reasons why I continue to find ways to interact with and serve those living broken lives is because my God donned flesh and set an example for me that I should do the same.   

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  (Matthew 25:35-36)

I was hungry.  I was thirsty.  I was a stranger.  I was naked.  I was in prison.

Jesus identified Himself with those that the world wanted to ignore.  He could have identified Himself with any strata of society.  And He said that when we honor the overlooked and the discarded, when we serve them, when we get close enough to them to look them in the eyes, when we do things for them that can be incredibly uncomfortable, we will have served Him. 

I worship an unbelievably merciful God.  And it is not up to me how He chooses to dispense that mercy.  I am grateful for that because I surely would not have received such a lavish portion otherwise.

That’s the reason I am sharing all of this.  The Truth that God has written on my heart – the lesson He has knit into my theology – is that I am a recipient of His mercy and grace and that I am called to treat others in the same way that I am treated.  That may sound incredibly simple and even trite.  But let me be the first person to confess that I have not always viewed others in this way, and therefore I have not always treated others in this way.

And this theology means that my days might include forgiving someone who has wronged me a number of times, loving (rather than talking down to) someone close to me who just continues to make poor decisions, choosing to relate to friends and family as a fellow messy person rather than trying to make them think that they should somehow seek to emulate my life, or carrying on a conversation with someone who might not have bathed in weeks but desperately needs to be treated like a real person. 

I don’t know who will be put in my path.  I don’t know whom I will be called to seek out.  I don’t know how challenging my interactions with them might be.

But I do know that they are the same kind of different as me.