We recently took a group of RUF students down to the Hartford Rescue mission to cook food and serve it to whoever came in off the street. University life can be pretty isolating--rubbing shoulders with the poor isn't something our students (or their campus minister) experience every day. Most Fridays Rev. Greg Woods asks the volunteering group to lead a short devotional, so I spoke on Psalm 51 and the "Benefits of Brokenheartedness." As I was thinking about the Psalm in preparation for my message, I was struck by something that should've been obvious to me: "I'm about to talk to a group of homeless people about how to be brokenhearted. Do I even have a leg to stand on?" Would it be patronizing to offer these people anything more than a hot meal and a smile? Certainly any kind of gospel message would be disregarded--"Easy for you to believe," I imagined them muttering under their breath as they nodded politely. After a few more moments reflecting on the Psalm, I remembered something Rick Downs, my pastor in Cambridge, had said: "You're not ready to do mercy ministry until you recognize that YOU are the one that needs mercy. You are the poor one, the destitute, the one who should cry out, 'Have mercy!'"
Is there a bridge the gospel can travel between the suburban rich and the urban poor? Yes, it is our spiritual poverty. The suburbanite does not condescend to the urbanite! He travels a level road because his poverty is no less severe. We are right in hesitating to speak the gospel if we see ourselves as somehow condescending to our hearers. The breathtaking reality is that King Jesus speaks to us from his knees, a servant ready to wash our feet. What a disarming thought! If nothing else, that should put us flat on our faces before the unbelieving world. "Sinners THEN will turn to Thee." (Psalm 51:13)