Working in the Jesus Centre has brought alive to me that Jesus, during his active years of ministry, was himself homeless.
It is disturbing how out of touch our Western Christianity has become. I was so powerfully repulsed by this that I headed to London to experience life within the homeless community.
In the midst of the sightseers, shoppers and workers rushing around, my first feeling was one of overwhelming aloneness. I quickly wanted to associate myself with people to learn how to survive.
First stop, breakfast at the famous ‘City Mission’ who have been feeding the homeless for 35 years. I joined the shuffling queue and after a few moments of self-consciousness soon relaxed into a sense of acceptance. I didn’t say too much as I wanted to stay anonymous.
I found my awareness of people was being heightened as I sat at the table. I was constantly weighing up those around me to forecast how to handle the next 15 minutes.
I can’t imagine the emptiness people must feel when, through no choice of their own, they have lost everything in life.
As I walked around I imagined Jesus sharing himself with the homeless folk I encountered, sleeping wherever he could get his head down, and them not feeling patronised or inferior, just sensing instead a powerful conviction and love. A far cry from the pat-on-the-head, “Here, have some free soup” mentality.
From my own miniscule experience I could see how difficult it was to achieve the very basics of life: finding somewhere to wash, somewhere else for breakfast, and somewhere different again for an evening meal. Even going for a pee in a proper toilet – and that’s if you’ve got 20p.
As I sat considering whether I’d use a very murky looking shower which ‘did’ for roughly 40 people (mainly men), I wondered whether Jesus had encountered similar problems. He must not always have been a guest in someone’s home. If Jesus turned up today with dirt under his nails and ponging a bit would we let him into our church? And the friends he and his disciples had met on the way – working girls, junkies, a paedophile on the run could we stomach them?
It’s 9pm and I’m crouching in Trafalgar Square munching on stale baguette I’ve just blagged from a cafe owner. I’m feeling very vulnerable.
The dark, harsh vibe of the city was closing in on me. It’s more than a fear; it’s like your soul is getting messed up. The thought of being alone for the next six hours of darkness as well as dodging any physical danger seemed too much. I decided to go home.
Was it a lack of trust in God or was it common sense kicking in? I don’t know — but I cried at how beautiful Jesus is who went through so much to bring the kingdom of heaven down to a hole like this.