“It’s times like these we learn to love again.” - Foo Fighters
Why, in a city littered with multi-million dollar facilities constructed in the name of God, is there only one non-government funded shelter striving to meet the needs of the homeless community? Only recently has this shelter gained any bit of recognition, the sole reason for which is the recent instruction to cease and desist operation because of fire and health code violations. To the community’s credit Heavenly Blessings has received an outpouring of support in recent days, but that doesn’t change the fact that in allowing this situation to come to a head, the Greater Church in Pensacola has seriously overlooked a community of people that their faith commands them to care for.
In the Gospel of Luke there is a parable of a shrewd manager who is fired for cheating his master out of money. Upon being fired, the manager devises a way in which he thinks he will gain favor with the community. He calls in those who are indebted to the master and offers to lower their debts by a certain amount. When the master learns of what his ex-manager has done, instead of punishing him further, the master actually praises the shrewd manager for his actions. For without knowing it, the shrewd manager brought honor to the master by lowering those debts --after all, the people believed the manager to still be working under the command of his master.
Admittedly this is not one of the easier parables to comprehend throughout the Gospels, but the message revealed is one that the Church, regardless of denomination, would do well to take to heart. By being shrewd--defined as being acute in perception and sound in judgment--with the resources we have been given, not only are those who live in poverty taken care of but honor is brought to the Master.
To restate the original question: “Is the Church being shrewd or using sound judgment with its resources by spending millions on facilities when there is a community of over 9,000 in Escambia County that do not have a place to lay their head?”
The success of the Church cannot and should not be measured by the size of a congregation or the splendor of it’s buildings, but rather by how effectively we demonstrate the love of Christ to everyone, regardless of age, race, sex or social status.
"A new command I give to you: Love one another." Let us love, because He first loved us; and when we are asked to give an account of that love, then we get to point to Jesus. To quote Brennan Manning, author of The Gentle Revolutionaries, love "is the only sign given by Jesus by which the disciple would be recognized." If we wait for the world to notice how holy we are by the size of our congregations or our state-of-the-art facilities, we'll wait for a long, long time.
Pensacola will always have those that are in need, but with as many people of faith that are here we should never be facing the situation we currently are, where a shelter could potentially have to close it’s doors because of a lack of resources.