Homeless People Smell


   “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”” Luke 10:36-37 ESV

   “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” James 2:13 ESV

    One day in church jam packed as usual with my homeless friends as this was a special weekly church service for homeless people, I took in a deep whiff of the pungent, decidedly unpleasant smell of a homeless person. Homeless people smell you know. Not all of them. Some. Of alcohol,  cigarettes, sweat, un-showered bodies, no deodorant. Of life on the streets and in the woods. The smell that day was so rank I couldn’t help myself. I sucked in another deep breath with the sole intent of gathering up another great big whiff of the odor. And smiled deeply in my heart. Sigh. I, who decades ago lived in New York City on whose subways I was horrified, judgmental, and likely hurried the other way if a homeless person dared to be anywhere near me with that smell, had fallen in love with the smell. And  the people that bore it. With broken hearts. Broken lives. With the possibility God in His mercy would take someone as broken and messed up as I had been and use me to help a homeless person find and follow His precious Son Jesus forever. I had fallen in love with how real these people are. Not putting on pretenses. Being themselves. Dressed like themselves. Acting like themselves. Smelling like themselves. In need of Jesus. The smell had become sweet to me, marking an opportunity to help bring someone to Jesus and the abundant forever life we can have with Him.

When a man was horribly robbed and left for dead, the one Jesus said was his neighbor who upheld God’s command to love our neighbors was the man with mercy. But wait a minute. The man didn’t just HAVE mercy. He SHOWED mercy. Switch to the other verse above. God will judge us without mercy if we do not HAVE mercy for others, right? No, if we don’t SHOW mercy to others.

How many of us think it’s enough to toss coins and donate clothes to the homeless and others in need of Christ’s love and compassion whereby we can keep our distance, not get dirty, avoid the smell of someone in need, not upset our schedules, not sacrifice our hearts and lives, etc.?

Is not the merciful in God’s eyes the one who SHOWS mercy by being willing to sacrifice anything and everything for someone in need?

Mercy in God’s eyes isn’t about having a feeling of compassion; it’s about mercy in action. Oh, the sweet smell of someone in need. And the sweet mercy of a God who not only extends His mercy to us who will receive it, but uses us to extend it to still others in Christ’s name.

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