Last week I was able to serve the people of South East Roanoke with Access Church. It’s familiar territory. Having been on two trips to help the people at Access serve Roanoke and attending Access while at school, I’ve gotten well acquainted to the area and the people. One thing I can’t seem to stop is the immediate judgment that flows through my mind when I see those that I am supposed to be serving.
I believe that this kind of judgment is very common to us, especially as Christians. We so easily forget where we come from, what Christ saved us from. Or maybe, like me, we’re good church kids who never really strayed out of God’s fold in any grand way. Besides this, maybe it’s just human nature. We want to think of others as less superior to ourselves, making us feel superior and important.
Maybe certain people are just too far gone, like the nearly-condemned house my church tried to save with Access last week.
It was horrifying. If you’ve ever watched one of those hoarders shows, then you can imagine what this house looked like. Cockroaches running in hoards of hundreds and thousands as furniture was removed. Cobwebs littering the walls and floor, as well as the spiders who weaved them. The stench that filled the house and saturated the floors and walls was nearly unbearable. It could be smelled from across the street, escaping with the roaches as they crossed the road.
Most of us were wondering why we even bothered to save that house. It should be condemned and torn down, or better yet burned. However, a few people held out confident resolve to fix the house for the people who lived there. Despite our doubts, the fearless crew continued to work throughout the week, brushing off cockroaches and spiderwebs as they worked. The fourth day we were there was the only day I worked on the house. Even after half a week of cleaning out and scrubbing down, the house still stunk so bad we had to wear masks. That being said, I took a couple breathers outside where Miss Nancy, the owner of the house, was sitting with her abundance of pets. Even talking with her for a few brief seconds allowed me to sense the sadness within her. She was a frail, old woman who was very sick. She needed help that no one had given her until now.
At one point I stepped outside to see a woman waving her hand out of a car window at Miss Nancy. I later found out that it was a woman from her church, the church that you could literally see from Miss Nancy’s front porch. All that woman did was wave at Miss Nancy and yell from the street, “We sure have missed you.” Then she drove off. Miss her indeed! They couldn’t be bothered to step out of their car and share more than one sentence with Miss Nancy. I later found out that one man’s explanation for this was that Miss Nancy had failed to come to church in the last two months. What. A. Shame.
By the end of the last day (the day I worked), new furniture that the thrift store had practically given us was settled into the living room and kitchen. The air still smelled bad, but we could breathe it without masks. An exterminator had graciously offered to work on the home for free, and the city was not going to condemn Miss Nancy’s home.
I felt God teaching me a lesson through this woman and her home. The house was a wretched mess. It looked bad, smelled worse, and was worthless. It was on the brink of being condemned. But because of God’s grace working through us, we were able to save this condemned home, so that Miss Nancy would have a place to live.
Now, I don’t know what Miss Nancy’s story is, but somewhere in her life she just stopped cleaning and lived in a filthy home. But who am I to judge her? Who am I to judge the homeless person begging for food on the street? Who am I to judge? God has held back His wrath and poured out merciful, gracious love upon me. What reason is there for me to not show the same love, grace and mercy to others, no matter who they are?
No one is too far gone for God to save them. God can use us to restore and redeem almost anything, even a condemned house. If He will use us to do that, He will certainly use us to redeem the people he so dearly loves.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”
– John 3:16-17
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not of yourselves, it is a gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advanced for us to do.”