A recent study in England researched the spiritual and religious practices of people that are homeless. In many places, the homeless are viewed as the ‘unrighteous of community values’. They are the ones whom parents warn their children about and city officials want out of sight. Business owners shoo them away.
The parable of the lost sheep tells us that the concerned shepherd leaves the 99 righteous sheep to find and restore the 1 back to the flock. If the church in any community does not have a concern for the homeless, I question if they grasp what it means to be the flock of God.
For homeless people – both those with faith and those who are not conventionally religious but see themselves as spiritually curious – religious belief, practice and doctrines can help them come to terms with a past that is often characterized by profound emotional and material loss, enhance and give structure to the present where time hangs heavy for many, and create a purposeful future built on hope, fellowship, and sense of purpose.
Homeless people, however, are hardly ever asked about faith and spirituality by service providers, let alone encouraged to engage with their religion and attend places of worship if they have faith, or to explore and nurture spiritual insights and curiosities.[i]
Have you spoken to someone on the streets lately? Did you ask them about their beliefs, values and needs? We may not be able to solve all the problems, but we do need to consider how far Jesus will go when searching for the lost, homeless and displaced.
Sooner or later, most of us will experience a great loss, displacement or life-altering crisis. The Good Shepherd will be looking high and low to restore us back into the flock. Homeless sheep cry out.