In the summer of 2020, my husband and I went on a bike ride from our house to Lake Harriet on the Greenway. We've ridden this path many times so I figured we'd see lots of the same: hard core bikers, runners, and walkers on their cell phones. What I did NOT expect to see, however, were rows and rows of tents.
Homeless tent communities aren't a new thing in Minneapolis, but because of the pandemic, hundreds of people have found themselves homeless, without a job, and unable to secure a place at a shelter because COVID has caused shelters to reduce their capacity.
Some of these communities are permitted by MN. Some of them are not (like the one on the Greenway). Regardless, they all have less than ideal living conditions, and no one wants to live outside in Minnesota during the winter! 😫
"People need to see this," I told my husband as we were biking past. So I made the decision to film it while riding my bike. Here's what I captured...
Yep. I wiped out. 100%. Flipped over my handlebars and landed underneath my bike...and I didn't even capture the footage! 🤦♀️
It doesn't take a genius to know this was a stupid idea. I mean, even I had a million reservations while I was in motion, but I wanted people to SEE the reality of our state so they might do something about it.
However, through further prayer and contemplation, God taught me something about the "unseen":
"Blessed are those who believe without seeing me." (John 20:29)
In this passage, Jesus is talking to Thomas. You know the one, the guy who became known as "Doubting Thomas." Rag on him all you want, but would you have believed Jesus had risen from the dead if you hadn't seen him either?
Thomas was like many of us. He needed proof.
"I won’t believe it unless I see the nail wounds in his hands, put my fingers into them, and place my hand into the wound in his side" (John 20:25).
And so eight days later, Jesus showed up where Thomas was eating lunch and was like SURPRISE! "Put your finger here. And look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!” (John 20:27)
Thomas got all excited, naturally, and proclaimed that Christ was Lord. But then Jesus added: "You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me” (v 29).
Our culture is in a disbelief pattern too. And I'm not just talking about faith: we literally don't believe something exists unless we see it firsthand or if it affects us personally. Heck, no one even makes a post on Facebook anymore unless it includes a picture or a video!
But here's the thing, every person on planet earth knows injustice exists. So do we really need a video to motivate us into action?
The issue, in my opinion, isn't really one of "seeing"; it's one of compassion. And as I sat there in emotional and physical pain after my accident asking God what I could do to help the tent communities, I felt him say: have compassion.
Compassion is the motivator to anything good. It's the reason we help the helpless, the reason God came to Earth, and the reason we forgive others (and why he forgives us!)
So the question is - Do we have compassion for those we cannot see? Do we have compassion simply because that's how God has called us to live?? (1 John 4:19; John 15:12) Because without compassion, the biggest problems of our world will remain "unfixable." We will choose to view them as insurmountable and therefore say, "What's the point in helping?"
But Jesus says:
"Whatever you [do] for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you [do] for me" (Matthew 25:40).
"Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (Matthew 5:42).
"In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
It's pretty clear here what Jesus asks us to do, so why do people of faith remain stagnant ... isolated ... blind to those who need it most?
One reason could be because it's hard to help someone if there's no easy solution. But I don't believe God is telling us to eradicate homelessness, or any other major issue for that matter. Rather, I feel like he's saying it's our job to have COMPASSION for one, regardless if we fully understand his or her pain or situation.
Compassion for one lasts way longer than a TikTok video anyway.
It helps someone feel seen.
It helps feed a belly.
It helps change a heart.
Compassion changes eternity.
So what can you do for one?