Regular readers of this blog will know the story of Gone, our local rough sleeper, who has been on the streets of the Black Country for 30 years. Last year, he spent 4 months up to Christmas sleeping under our hedge in the front drive, as we tried, succeeded and failed to get him into Betel. He then spent 10 months between various houses and hostels and is now back on the streets after burning those bridges by his anti-social behaviour.
This year, the rain has poured down on him every night as he has slept under our hedge. He is miserable and cold. We speak kindly to him and minister the gospel of the love of God, which he knows, but we only offer him tough love when it comes to his physical needs. We have been in consultation with the housing office who will not give up, even when there appear to be no options remaining.
And so, Gone continues to sleep rough. I want Gone to hate the streets enough to think twice about burning bridges and so sleeping rough is good for him in one way. Yet, at another level, I know I could take him in, out of the cold, where he’d be safe and protected. His fears might diminish once off the streets and in Christain community, and so his need to self-medicate with cheap cider might change. But he is too dirty, too smelly, too dangerous for our kids and would make the house a real pigsty. And this is where he has helped me grasp the gospel in a new way.
I have no idea how perfect and wonderful God’s house is (John 14) but I know it must be holy, clean, pure, lovely, amazing, unspoiled by sin. And so, God has the same sort of dilemma with me as I have with Gone, though relatively God’s dilemma is much greater than mine. God wants to let me back into his presence for my safety, protection and joy, he does not want to keep offering me tough love, but he does so that I long to be with him. He weans me off this sinful world. Yet, as long as I am filthy, dirty, sinful and unholy, there is no way he can let me in to his holy presence to spoil what he has made perfect. I have a problem with God which, thankfully, he has addressed by stepping down out of his house to fix. He came to fix me.
The birth of the eternal Son of God, who came to live and die for me, to cleanse away my sin and prepare me and billions of others to enter his Father’s house is pure gospel for me. Because of Christ’s love and death, I am now prepared by him, cleaned up and ready, to enter his Father’s s presence without making a mess of it when I get there.
And so I can give thanks to Gone for his ministry to me, including his prayers and advice to stop working so hard. And I can continue to step out of my house, even at 9:45pm, when it is raining and I have had a long day of minstry, to minister to Gone to see God clean him up, so that one day, he might at least eat with us around our table.
This is how God has used Gone to help me grasp the gospel better. How can it be that smelly old me will one day eat with my Holy Heavenly Father? Praise and thanks be to Christ!