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Friday, June 25, 2010

Homeless people and the image of God

A Homeless Woman - Sochi, Russia

Recently while watching the local news I saw a story about three homeless men. Two were dead; lying near the sidewalk while the third was talking to the news reporter. Seeing homeless people who have died here in Russia is not unusual. Stories like this are on the local news at least once a month. I still remember walking to the train station one day and seeing the body of an obviously homeless person lying on the sidewalk as people, going about their normal business, walked by. Today, while walking home I saw a homeless man eating from a pile of rotting fruit behind a fruit and vegetable stand.

A Homeless Drug Addict - Nizhny Novgorod

The roots of homelessness are not easily understood. The hard-core homeless person often prefers the street to living in a shelter. Some are self deceived into believing that they are free from the bondages of society. Homeless people are an inconvenience to any society. They are an embarrassment that no one wants to deal with, and they are often treated as trash. Society wants to sweep them away and clean up the streets. They are labeled as lazy, worthless, criminals and troublemakers.

Homeless men, Moscow - from "PravdaOnline"

Homeless people are often addicted, many to alcohol, others to drugs or a combination of the two. Many of the hard core homeless suffer from mental illness. On the streets of any major city in America you can see those who are obviously mentally ill and living on the streets. The same is true in Russia. Here extreme poverty, broken families and lack of education are the hallmarks of many of the homeless.

The homeless individual, that “bum” on the street, is a valuable human being. He or she is valuable to God and he or she is valuable to each of us. When we recognize the broken yet very real image of God in such a person, we recognize that the image of God that we carry is also broken and in need of redemption. The image of God in the homeless may be more broken than the image of God that you carry, but the truth is that the image of God is marred in all of us. As we serve those who need help to restore their place in society, we also work at restoring ourselves. The poor, the broken the crushed are not to be objects of our pity and charity, they are to be the objects of our love. In loving the poor, the broken, the outcast we love Christ.

Mikhail a graduate from the Social Center for Homeless Rehabilitation with Pastor Artyom

As Christians it is our responsibility to see those who are less fortunate than we as fellow human beings, created in the image of God. Those who say that they believe in Christ must see the image of God in every human being, and be ready to help each human being see in themselves the same image of God.

Jesus said that if we are the “righteous” it will be evident in how we treat the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger and the prisoner. Salvation is the free gift of God received through faith, yet that faith must be evidenced by the way we treat “the least of these”.

One of the Ladies on her graduation day

When I see another dead homeless human being lying in the street, when I see the broken body of a drug addict who leaped to his death out of despair, when I see the dead broken body of an elderly person who has killed themselves from depression and the burdens of poverty and failing health I grieve. I grieve for what could have been. I grieve for the destroyed life. I grieve for the church which missed the opportunity to bring salvation and restoration, often because we are too busy doing “spiritual” things.

At the same time I daily see the joy that helping the homeless brings. I see the joy on Vera’s face as she worships God with reckless abandon, after being saved from the streets. I see it written in the crags and wrinkles of Vasya’s face as he introduces us as his friend’s to those who are new at the homeless shelter. I see it in Lyuba’s face as she gives to Karen a pair of used jeans as a “blessing” for being her friend and mentor.

Vera - formerly homeless, now serves others

We have dozens of formerly homeless, friends. These friends are men and women who are learning that they are made in the image of God and that they are valuable human beings, not trash to be swept from the street. We deeply value their friendship.

We serve here, both in joy and in grief. We long to see the day when the Kingdom of God will come in fullness of power to finally bring the restoration and redemption that every human being needs.

With some of the brothers at the Center for Social Rehabilitation


Elizabeth said...

Sobering yet uplifting. I often see those still forms and wonder if they are alive or not. And whether or not they WANT to be alive or not. Thanks for your example.

Amrita said...

I can relate to this scenario. Holelessness is rampant in India. Poverty, abandonment, disease etc. being some of the reasons. Some times we shelter people on our church porch.

Anonymous said...

I thank The Lord Jesus Christ that someone cares about our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than us- the Homeless.I believe we as christians should be each others' keeper therein lie our righteuoness.

Patricia said...


I myself can empathise with these lost souls.
I can only hope and pray that they to will experience that one single moment in there lives of pure Devine love that will guide and show them how truly beautiful and unique they truly are.