As Christians, we know we should show compassion, kindness and care for those in need. But how depends on the circumstance. The church often feels inadequate and unqualified to meet the complex needs of a marginalised individual. As a result we may not engage at all. Here are three ways you can put into action Christ’s love for the needy.
I believe the fundamental starting point is simply to begin a friendship, even if it’s basic. The host of complex needs – practical, emotional and spiritual – are unlikely to be met in one encounter. I encourage you to view a marginalised individual as a person to know rather than a set of problems to solve. Tea, coffee and conversation is compulsory, if friendships are to grow!
I find God moves in the longevity of relationship, through Christ’s love imparted over time in an active friendship. Simply be kind, inclusive and non-judgmental: the friendships that develop will be unique, rewarding and - God willing - very fruitful, both in individuals’ lives and for the church family.
BE WILLING TO CHANGE
These new friendships may look different to the ones you already have, requiring more patience, discernment and perspective. Your view of the ‘proper’ way to talk, live or dress might need changing, often a difficult and uncomfortable change. Humility and gentleness is paramount since there is a real danger of appearing patronising or superior.
Find out details of your local authority’s homeless outreach team - a referral to them by phone or email is the best way to help, but have common sense - don’t give out personal addresses or numbers. Share responsibility as a church community - everyone plays a part in being warm and friendly to all visitors
We can always pray. Though praying directly with someone isn’t always appropriate, praying for someone on the margins of society is true care. Pray for our workers, and for every Christian building such friendships.
Neil Gillespie, Street Team Leader, King’s Cross
This is an adaptation of an article first published in Winter 2015/16 Changing London