Christ Has Shown Mercy

by Josh Beaton, Partnership Coordinator

I was recently in Los Angeles on a trip to meet with partners and begin the planning process for our 2017 summer. I had the honor to teach an afternoon Bible class on the Parable of The Good Samaritan in Luke’s Gospel at the Union Rescue Mission, Next Step’s main partner in LA. As I was leaving the building, I saw several well dressed business men who must have been lost, walking on South San Pedro Street. As I observed them walking, a man was clearly shamefully asking them for change, staring at the ground instead of their faces. I, too walked the other way, as I was heading to my next business meeting. With each step though, my feet got heavier and heavier—to the point that I could no longer continue moving forward. I heard two voices. One was the faint, defeated voice of the man asking for change. The other was my own, reciting the remnants of that afternoon’s Bible class. I thought to myself, “You are the priest and the Levite who walked by, but ‘the one who showed him mercy.’ . . . You go, and do likewise” -Luke 10:37

Homelessness in Los Angeles is an extremely complex problem. The most dense population of people experiencing homelessness exists in central city LA in an area known as Skid Row. Here more than 15,000 people experiencing homelessness reside on the cement. People are here for many reasons, people stay here for far more complex reasons. People are in need on Skid Row, but the needs are sometimes hard to see as it is often masked by the vast population of the neighborhood. However, every person on these streets deserves the same amount of attention and care as the next. When we do not see them, we dehumanize the people God loves and values. In Generous Justice Tim Keller writes, “Jesus taught that a lack of concern for the poor is not a minor lapse, but reveals that something is seriously wrong with one’s spiritual compass, the heart.” In other words, a heart not bent toward grace and mercy has not experienced true compassion. When we ignore the poor, we show we have not yet understood our own poverty. In the heart of Skid Row sits Union Rescue Mission, the largest shelter in the world providing for the needs of the people of Skid Row. Next Step exists in  Los Angeles to support URM, and respond to the demand of Christ to pay attention to our neighbors in this area.

In Luke 10, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus does not explore possible reasons for which the priest and the Levite walk by the vulnerable man. He does not say, “Maybe they do not want to be taken advantage of” or “Maybe the priest wants to remain ritually pure.” Their reasons are irrelevant because they are actively choosing to walk away and not show compassion. They do not love their neighbor as they love themselves. Self-protection, fear, and apathy are not excuses for passing by; they are indicators of our heart’s condition.

Jesus wants us not only to identify with the priest and the Levite; He also wants us to see our neediness in the vulnerable man. That man might be half dead, but we were completely dead—dead in our sins (Eph 2:1). Yet Christ did not leave us to be the living dead. On the cross, He did not merely risk His life or purity to help us; He freely gave it. Today, He speaks life into our death—even when we cannot love Him or anyone else. He comes to our brokenness and vulnerability to rescue us by His grace. In this way, Jesus himself is the Good Samaritan.  With this parable in mind, I turned around and began talking to the man—whose name, I discovered, was Jason. As I looked in his eyes, his face brightened up. I asked him what he needed, and he told me he just wanted a sandwich. So we went to the local convenience store, and I told him to order whatever he wanted. As we ate together, he told me how excited he was to spend time with someone who listens to him. The gospel reminds us that Christ loved us when we had no capacity or desire to love Him back. This transformational love sets us free from the shackles of comfort and self-protection to care for our neighbors. When I think of how Next Step Ministries can support Union Rescue Mission in helping end homelessness in Los Angeles I get overwhelmed at times. How do we continue to do this? I feel the answer is simple. We need more people with the awareness and heart to give value to those who feel invaluable. People who show mercy because we have been shown mercy.


Next Step Ministries