Last week I was having a conversation with a disgruntled youth at the Drop-In Center. For the sake of her privacy, let’s call her Izzy. She was frustrated, and rightly so, because another youth had gone through her boyfriend’s belongings and taken some items. In Izzy’s frustration she exclaimed, “We really need to enforce the rule that you can’t come down here if you’re under the influence!” In this moment, God reminded me of a phrase that he spoke through the apostle Paul, “and such were some of you.”
In comparison to the girl that had stolen Izzy’s boyfriend’s belongings, Izzy has it together. Yes, she’s still sleeping on the streets, but she’s enrolled in school, she has a part-time job, she consistently volunteers, and she’s building healthy relationships within her community. However, a year ago, it was a very different story. I didn’t know her then, but she’s told me about this time in her life. Last winter, Izzy was regularly using meth. This lifestyle caused her shame which led her to avoid many support systems in her life. She stopped coming to the drop-in. She lost connections with the people and resources around her. And in a lot of ways, she lost hope.
Reflecting on Izzy’s background, I responded to Izzy’s frustration by saying, “Izzy, there’s a part in the bible where is starts listing off sins that people commit that keep them from entering heaven. Things like stealing, letting things or people take God’s place in our lives—“
“—Adultery.” She added.
Remembering that as a child Izzy and her mother were kicked out of the church they were attending because the church found out that her conception was the result of an affair, I responded, “Yes, and adultery.”
She nodded as if accepting judgement.
“But Izzy, there’s more to this story. It goes on to say ‘and such were some of you.’ Izzy we all have dark pasts, you, me, everyone here,” I waved my arm across the room, “but it’s because of love that we are able to move from this darkness. People aren’t justified because they no longer do bad things, they are justified because Christ lived justly for them and out of love, died for their sins. It is because of love that these people are made clean.”
After explaining this to her, I turned the tables on her, asking her how she was able to move forward from her addiction. She acknowledged that it was because people didn’t give up on her and continued to love and support her even though she pushed them away. Prodding further, I asked if there is a way that we can continue to come alongside people that are moving in a good direction, while at the same time loving and supporting those that have lost their way. Eventually she conceded and agreed that we have to accept all people, even if they are struggling with addiction.
Like Izzy, we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to the people around us. I think we often look at people in the position of the girl that stole Izzy’s boyfriend’s clothes and fall prey to one of two thoughts, the first being pity and the second, self-righteousness. We see these people as either too broken to repair or too messed up to deal with. Scripture like 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is a good reminder to us all that God can redeem anyone.
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
~1 Corinthians 6:9-11
My favorite part of this passage is that it doesn’t say that we become good and then God loves us. It says that our goodness comes from God. That though his grace we are even able to act good at all. Pride can make it easy for us to claim responsibility for where we are at today, but verses like this remind us all where we were without God and where we would be if it weren’t for Him.
Izzy is right, it’s appropriate to have boundaries and maintain the safety of Hosea; however, working with a population of youth that struggle with post-traumatic responses, such as drug addiction, anxiety, violent tendencies, and depression, it’s also necessary to have grace. As God pursues us with an unrelenting love, we too must strive to love all people. For this reason we continue to welcome people from all backgrounds, with various struggles and addictions. It’s easy to turn our backs on those that the world sees as too broken to fix. It’s harder to do as God does and love these people to the very end.
~ Crystal Rexius, Program Coordinator