Loving People Who Suck

I love my job very much. As most of you know, I work for a church here in Chicago. A wonderful, life-giving, open & affirming, loving church called Saint Pauls United Church of Christ. Unfortunately, this wonderful place has often been taken advantage of. We've had things stolen, people have been accosted for money...sad, disturbing things have happened. And today was one of those days.

Around 11:45, the doorbell rang and I pressed the button to let the person inside. Here, we have an open door policy. Generally that's a good thing. Sometimes it's not. Today it was the latter.

A young rather disheveled looking gentleman came up to the office and preceded to tell me that someone here at the church had stolen his bag. Since I knew the person he thought stole it, I disregarded the story internally. He went on to ask if I had a bag I could give him, a backpack or a carrier bag in particular. I apologized to the young man, but told him that we don't have any bags here (which is true). He thanked me and walked out of the office. I (wrongfully) assumed he left the building. Instead, he went downstairs and stole one of my co-workers backpacks, with all of his identification, his passport, his cds, and radio.

My heart was broken when my co-worker realized that his things were gone. On one hand, I felt so bad because this particular co-worker is from Mexico and would have to get in contact with the Mexican consulate to get new identification and passport, which I'm sure is a pain. But even more than that, I was so hurt that people take advantage of wonderful, compassionate places such as this. I won't go through the long list of thefts that we have had in the last year. Just know there are many things missing. But, yet, our hearts are still open and our doors are as well.

"Why? Why do people do bad things? And why do we have to be concerned with who we open the door for? It sucks that we have to care who's coming in the door at our church, but we do." In this childlike way, I asked our senior pastor and one of our associate pastors these questions after we realized a theft had taken place. 

Right then and there, the two of them became my spiritual counselors for a moment. And the best thing they said to me was that we needed moments like this, for things like this to happen, to remind us why we need Jesus. And also to be confronted with our own sinfulness. Rather than disassociate myself with the person who robbed us and label him as one of the "people who suck," I should look at him as a brother. After all, we, meaning all of mankind, are born into the same sin. I can see a reflection of myself in the desperate actions of this young man. While I may not literally behave the same way as him, I can certainly see the figurative ways in which I am no greater and no less than he.

But also our senior pastor, Pastor Matt, reminded me that in realizing we need Jesus, we have to accept that we can't be Jesus. While our doors are open figuratively, we may have to change our literal policy. We may have to screen who comes through our doors when a young woman finds herself alone in the office with a thief, as I did today. And it sucks. It sucks that I need to be cautious, wary of who comes into the building. It feels un-Christian to screen who comes through the door. Yet we have to. We have to because the world, ourselves included, needs Jesus. In this way, I was confronted with my own humanity today. With all of its joys and sins, sorrows and happiness. 

I apologize if this post seems incoherent. I just needed to get my thoughts out in an honest, open way. I titled this post "Loving People Who Suck" but I hope from my words, you can gather that I really mean "Loving Ourselves." 

I'll end with a quote from one of our pastors. We had a rummage sale here at the church recently. After the sale, we keep the rummage open for folks experiencing homelessness to shop for free. Pastor Matt had a great moment with a guy who was standing in line. I love this story. I hope it inspires you:

"The first man in line had a long pony tail and a scuffed up black leather jacket. He looked rough. I thought I saw him for who he was. Tough as nails. We stood two feet from one another in dead silence. Then he spoke up. And here’s what he said, “Hey, you want to see a picture of my kids?” They were beautiful of course. Twins, two-year old girls. He had about a dozen photos. After I looked through them he said, “I’m here to get toys and furniture and clothes for them. Their mother and I are trying to get our custody back. Trying to get our daughters back. I’d stand in this line for hours. I’d wait all day.” And he smiled and there was such hope in his eyes. And I saw this man for who he truly was and I saw my own fear for what it truly was and I felt myself broken in two and made whole right at the exact same time. Indicted and enlightened in an instant both at once."

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