On a recent Sunday, some members of my family and members from my church participated in an event called Step Out and Serve. This is an event where a group of local churches go out into the community to work on various service projects and is billed as an opportunity to practically demonstrate our love for Jesus and the people in our city. We look funny as we all wear bright purple t-shirts.
Our project was working with Abide Ministries, an inner city mission. And I mean inner city. My first reaction was, we do not want to be in this neighborhood after dark. When the sun goes down, the drugs and guns come out. Abide had purchased an abandoned house and wanted to renovate it for use by a needy family. My second reaction was, are you kidding? This house is beyond restoration. It would be better to just knock it down and start over. Vandalized inside and out, neglect, all sorts of damage and the smell. Oh, my goodness. Even the drug dealers wouldn’t use this house. Do you really think this thing can be salvaged?
A young man, the son of the leader of Abide Ministries, must have perceived what all of us were thinking. He stepped forward to encourage us. I immediately recognized him as a recent graduate and basketball player from Creighton. He told the story of a vacant lot in the neighborhood. As you can imagine, it was covered with trash and overgrown with weeds. He undertook cleaning it up. As he was mowing, an elderly neighbor woman came out and asked him, "why are you doing this?" The city just hasn’t gotten it cleaned up yet he replied. "But, why are you doing this?" she persisted. Well, it really needs it. She still persisted with her question. It will make the neighborhood a little better. And still she persisted. He thought for a moment and replied, "because it’s what Jesus wants me to do." She smiled and walked away with tears in her eyes.
As we worked on the house I began to notice neat things about the house. Wood floors. Big windows. Tall ceilings. In its day, this must have been a beautiful home. Maybe it does have the potential to be, if not beautiful, at least useful again. I thought about how I’m a little like this old house. As the psalmist says, wonderfully made. Yet people, things, events and circumstances come into my heart that leave scars and trash. I wonder what our hearts look like to God. Has he ever viewed us as beyond salvage? Obviously not or there would not have been the offer to allow Jesus into our hearts. Today’s culture always says it’s about me. Citizens of this world view others as second rate and beyond repair. As citizens of God’s kingdom we are called by Christ to be second. To put others first. Even those we may not like. A tall order, but one that can reap rewards beyond our imagination.
My prayer today is for those of us who look at something or someone as beyond salvage. That we would allow Christ, the Master Carpenter, into our hearts for a restoration project.
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