Posted by: Darrell Johnson | February 9, 2010

Stars Fell on Alabama & that’s not a bad thing.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.
— 1 John 1:9

This past Saturday I agreed with a concern/comment that was made by one of our residents. At the time it made sense to me, at the time I was frustrated and tired, at the time I allowed my sinful nature to get the best of me. Yea, Saturday was a rather eventful day. (As to what I agreed with, I’ll get to that later).

While I was giving a tour of Jeff St. to a seminarian who wanted to research homeless shelters and other organizations that promote mercy, he asked me the question of what made Jeff St. different than all the other shelters in Louisville. Now being that I am not too familiar with all the other shelters in the city, I encouraged the student to ask one of our residents who was very familiar with the other shelters in the city. Our resident replied with, “This place is a lot more secure than other shelters,” the student hurriedly took notes and listened with great intent. And sure enough something rather ironic took place; just after the Jeff St. resident praised the security at Jeff St. something came over my radio along the lines, “Darrell there’s a fight in the cafeteria.” I quickly excused myself from the second floor and headed downstairs to the day shelter.

When I arrived I heard yelling and saw two men engaging in fisticuffs (yea, that’s right I used the word fisticuffs). With the help of other staff, some volunteers, and day shelter guests, the rumble subsided and we were able to separate the two men. Only one our guests sustained some mild injuries, but the tension in the air was thick and we quickly asked the guest who was not injured to leave the premises and informed him that he was suspended indefinitely as we do with any party that is involved in a fight. I spoke with the young man who was injured and asked him why the fight took place, he looked down and slowly told me that it was over the state of Alabama. Not a sports team or any kind of rivalry of sorts, but the actual state itself (this was definitely a first).

The young man I spoke with was talking with his friend, who is from Alabama, and made a comment that didn’t settle well with an older gentleman who has some ties to the state. Some words were exchanged and the two men quickly found themselves in each other’s faces. It was really a sad sight. When I asked the young man if he understood why we were going to have to suspend him from Jeff St. he brushed it off and seemed to not realize how fighting was not the answer to anything. I found myself rather frustrated with the situation that had taken place and the conversation I had with the young man.

Later that evening at dinner, I was sharing with one of our residents what had transpired and he said something that I didn’t expect him to say. He said that since Jeff St. is in the process of parting ways from government funding that we should be more exclusive about who we allow in the day shelter. His comment wasn’t promoting defining the lines between the bourgeois and the proletariat, but for the “good” folks (my interpretation) to come in and the “bad” folks to not come in. And in the midst of my frustration with my previous conversation with the young man in the day shelter, I foolishly said, “you may have something there.”

Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I agreed with that statement. Because I know that my agreement was due to my sin. It was due to my judgment and anger I had towards that young man who was quite disrespectful to me as I spoke with him.

Is that how heaven works??? NO ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!

My foolish rationale resonated with a line from a Matthew Good Band song “Load Me Up” which claims:

…”if heaven is for clean people, then it’s vacant.”

Such cynicism is so far away from the Gospel that I’m having a hard time admitting to this to all you folks out their in cyberspace. But as we learn from 1 John 1:9, if we confess our sins we will be forgiven. Now if I, a believer who serves in a homeless shelter, am hesitant to own up to my own sin how is that I could be so callous to expect someone who may not have any idea what the Gospel is to understand the importance of being repentant of sin.

Heaven is full of clean people who were washed in the Blood of the Lamb, just like the old hymn says. It’s not vacant! The two men who were fighting over the state of Alabama may very well be up there with me one day, but if I sit and say let’s allow this person to come in, but this person not to due to a unfair assumption of another person’s character or lack thereof then we’re pretty much shooting ourselves in the foot when we wish to share the Good News.

“The least of these” are not just those that we get along with, they are those that we do not understand and sometimes have to ask to leave for being in a fight. But to not give them a chance would be such a disservice to folks.

Owning up to your own sin isn’t always easy. Jeff St. has made some bold decisions to be able to advance the Gospel, not make our place an exclusive ministry. This is my confessional blog, this is my cry and plea. Please continue to pray for Jeff St. Pray that we, as staff, would seek out the wisdom,peace and love of our heavenly Father and that we would not fall into the temptation of the enemy. That we would be lights that shine for Christ  who show His mercy to those we’ve been called to love and serve and not people manning a velvet rope at our day shelter entrance. Pray for God’s kingdom to be advanced in our community, pray for the two men who we’ve suspended due to fighting.

Question for myself and the masses:

“Forgiveness yields real, lasting joy…unconfessed sin yields heartache and devastation.” —Chad Lewis, a pastor at Sojourn Community Church

OH LORD, guide us all.

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