Meeting need is central to community
Watching a homeless man give away his jacket helped Aspire’s Rachel Gibson understand authentic community.
I was standing at the welcome desk as I observed two of our guests having a conversation outside while they shared a smoke. It was a very broken conversation due to their language barriers.
The younger man came inside and went upstairs to his room, returning minutes later with a jacket in his hands.
I watched from a distance in surprise and awe as he handed the older man the jacket and insisted he put it on.
Later, when I commented on it, he simply said, "He was cold and I didn’t need it."
This is one of the memories that has stayed with me most from my time this year at the Overnight Welcome Centre in Glasgow, which offers emergency winter accommodation for those experiencing homelessness.
I had to perform room checks that afternoon, and it was glaringly obvious to me as I looked around the younger man’s room how very little he had.
He gave away his only other jacket simply because he recognised a need in another, and he could.
Our concept of need is interesting. It’s all about perspective.
When we consider authentic community, and look to the early church, there is a clear and constant theme of the sacrificial giving for the meeting of a need.
The most fundamental meaning of community is oneness; "one of heart and mind" (Acts 4).
Or as Philippians 2 says, "... of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind."
The Bible continues with, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others."
In essence, true community means that we cease the promotion of the individual to advance the common good; the common mission.
But what does this look like in reality? How does this play out in our local church?
Is it a need to change an attitude, a focus, and a priority?
Or is it a change of focus from meeting of our own spiritual 'need' to the spiritual needs of others within or outside our church community?
Or to recognise a serving need, and to willingly give a valuable piece of our time to meet it? To prioritise the financial need in an area of mission over our own personal materialistic aspirations?
Or maybe it’s how we prioritise our prayer times. A wise person once asked, "If God answered all your prayers would the world look different, or would it just be your life?"
And as I think on this, I wonder... is there anything more radical and countercultural in our consumerist society than that?
Whatever it is, it needs to start with a change of heart. A heart that sees a man without a jacket and without hesitation offers him your own.
As an everyday working mum Rachel lives to authentically pursue Jesus in every area of life as she serves with her husband Gary and son Kaiden in Glasgow Elim.
First published in the September 2021 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.
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