Wrestling Match

He could have been homeless. He wasn’t.

He could have been asking for money. He wasn’t.

He could have been trying to sell me something. He wasn’t.

He was wrestling with his faith and needed someone to talk to.

Ya'aqov-gauguin-Visitation-After-the Sermon-1888bThe young man who came to see me yesterday, someone who knocked on the door of Guilford Park after trying a few other churches, is in the midst of a wrestling match. During some hard times in his own life, he discovered that his friends who bore the label Christian did not show him the love, generosity, and hospitality Christ offers so readily in our gospel. And the churches he sought out were no better at showing Christ to him.

He discovered instead that his friends who eschewed that label reached out in an instant. They were the bearers of Christ’s love, but acted without this label.

“Why?” he wanted to know. “Why did my Christian friends and churches shut me out and my non-Christian friends reach out to help me?”

We talked about a lot of things in our thirty-minute conversation. We talked about wrestling: about Jacob and the angel; how wrestling is a part of building faith; how it can leave us both scarred and blessed. We talked about how different churches interpret the Bible: from an exclusive to an inclusive view. We talked about showing Christ’s love: the difference between using our hands versus simply opening our wallets (both are necessary).

We talked about Guilford Park. I told him how you all are welcoming and generous. That on Tuesday night a group of folks was at Hot Dish and Hope serving the hungry, that last Sunday a group was at Weaver house serving breakfast, and about many other ways you all are physically present among the marginalized in our society.

I did invite this young man to join us on Sunday, and I hope he comes. And I also know I don’t have to tell you to be on the lookout for him, because you greet everyone who visits us with incredible warmth and hospitality.

But he left me with a wrestling match, too. Earlier this week a gentleman came to Guilford Park and asked to use the bathroom. He was shown the way, but for safety reasons (our preschool was in session), our church administrator kept an eye on the bathroom, and helped him find his way back out again. An hour later there was a report that this same man stole wallets from a church up the street.

How do we do it? How do we discern who is trying to scam us and who is honest? Guilford Park, like many churches, has a policy that we have everyone vetted through Greensboro Urban Ministry before we provide financial assistance. This system doesn’t work perfectly, and I know there are people who come to our doors who are in need and who the system has failed. So how do we do it? How do we show Christ’s love while trying to assure that our resources are given in ways that will help the most?

I’m left with this wrestling match.

Jo Owens


5 thoughts on “Wrestling Match

  1. I have to agree. Our church, I can say this now with a big smile, is a very welcoming place and as such we will always wrestle with what is good. I know I go through the same struggles. I travel a lot and when I see someone on the corner begging for money I have to pray. I pray do I or don’t I, and if I don’t I struggle with did I do what Christ would have done. Everything I have is not mine, but I sometimes wonder if I got it wrong and didn’t give when I should.

  2. Pingback: Home Away From Home | Leaves on the Tree

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