The Associated Press (“AP News”) published an article today concerning homeless tent encampments, which have long been a fixture of West Coast cities, but are now spreading across the United States.  The federal government estimates the number of homeless reached 580,000 last year, driven by lack of affordable housing, a pandemic that economically wrecked households, and lack of access to mental health and addiction treatment.

Attempts to clear encampments are increasing in cities from Los Angeles to New York as public pressure grows to address what some residents say are dangerous and unsanitary living conditions.  Despite the tens of millions of dollars spent, there is little reduction in the number of tents propped up on sidewalks, in parks and adjacent to freeway on/off ramps.

Even Democratic California Governor Gavin Newsom, whose state is home to nearly one-third of the country’s homeless population, now says that leaving hazardous makeshift camps to fester is neither compassionate nor an option.  He is urging the United States Supreme Court to overturn a controversial 9th Circuit appellate court ruling that prohibited local governments from clearing (sweeping) encampments without first assuring everyone living there is offered a bed indoors – including San Francisco.

The AP News article may be read HERE.

My brothers and sisters, compassion is absolutely consistent with being a Christian and well represents our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  After all, God is love.

Psalm 145:8 (NKJV)
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, [s]low to anger and great in mercy.”

Micah 7:18-19 (ESV)
God’s Steadfast Love and Compassion
“Who is a God like [Y]ou, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance?  He does not retain [H]is anger forever, because [H]e delights in steadfast love.  He will again have compassion on us; [H]e will tread our iniquities underfoot.  You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

1 John 4:7-8 (NKJV)
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God, for God is love [emphasis mine].”

The question quickly becomes a matter of priorities and requires decisions as to how best to handle those who are temporarily “down on their luck” or are otherwise mentally ill, drug addicted, spiritually afflicted by the evil one, and/or who may have reached a point of choosing to live a life with no responsibilities.

When is doing nothing compassion?  Is enabling sometimes deadly or societally-harmful practices compassionate?  Is love always easy, or can the love we need to move forward or become more Christlike sometimes be a little “hard?”  Even the bible tells us that Jesus chastens those he loves, to bring necessary correction.  This is not mean, but it is done in love for our betterment!

Proverbs 3:11-12 (NKJV)
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, [n]or detest His correction; [f]or whom the Lord loves He corrects, [j]ust as a father [corrects] the son in whom he delights.”

As is so very often the case, it seems that the answer is for all parties to work cooperatively for the resolution.  Scripture makes it clear that civil government is important in our world (see Romans 13) and the secular world agrees (to the point of a fault) that civil government has a role to play in society.  Our local, state, and to a lesser degree, federal governments are uniquely positioned to assist the less fortunate while simultaneously maintaining the good order and health of communities.  But, is this solely the job of government?  Absolutely not!

Romans 13:1-2 (NKJV)
Submit to Government
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.  Therefore[,] whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.”

There is the inevitable debate between the “individual responsibility” and “it takes a village” perspectives.  The interesting thing, like so much of what is true in society today, is that the answer to life’s problems is rarely a matter of mutual exclusivity.  In fact, except for the properly interpreted and contextualized truths of God found in scripture, living a “black and white” or “if this then that” approach to life tends to yield hardened hearts and narrow or less creative minds.  This leads to a dependence upon the wisdom of man instead of the wisdom of God.  Is it no wonder that so many see government alone as the answer to everything in life?  This takes our eyes and our hearts away from God and turns government into an idol!

1 Corinthians 3:19 (NLT)
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  As the Scriptures say, ‘He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.’”

Psalm 24:3-5 (NKJV)
“Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?  Or who may stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, [w]ho has not lifted up his soul to an idol, [n]or sworn deceitfully.  He shall receive blessing from the Lord, [a]nd righteousness from the God of his salvation.”

1 Corinthians 10:12-15 (NKJV)
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.  Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry [emphasis mine].  I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say.”

As always, the Answer is Jesus!  So, if the love of Christ fills the hearts of our leaders and workers in civil government AND within the church, then the two can work together toward the common goal of edifying and blessing “the least of these” or those needing some help.

Colossians 3:17 (NKJV)
“And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”

This is not to say that the church should take its cue from the wisdom of man (heaven forbid!) or that civil government should demand its citizens accept an “official” religion – as such is not only contrary to United States Constitution, but the Lord desires that our love for Him and reflected to others would be a matter of free will.

1 Corinthians 3:19 (NLT)
“For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  As the Scriptures say, ‘He traps the wise in the snare of their own cleverness.’”

The point is that society and its civil governments will be greatly enhanced and effective (read:  a blessing) to its people when those in civil government are led by God-fearing believers who seek the guidance and will of the Lord FIRST and then execute that compassion in our government and society!

In the City of Albuquerque, the homelessness problem continues to exist, if not increase, despite the best efforts of civil government.  In fairness, city officials have worked hard to find resolutions to this situation, but the battles being fought are not recognized by many in our governments for being what they really are – spiritual strongholds and attacks by the evil one.  Prayer and faith in Christ is the recipe for success!

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (NKJV)
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…”.

For those who live in the greater Albuquerque area, the city has a relatively exhaustive webpage dedicated to health, housing and homelessness, which may be found HERE.  Let’s never forget that as Christians, we are the hands and feet of Christ here on earth!

In fact, the City of Albuquerque has a formal policy regarding encampments on public property – CABQ Encampment Policy [Revised October 2022].

And of course, let us never forget the exceeding power and love of God!  If we seek His will in prayer, with thanksgiving, He will give us peace, wisdom and protection for our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus!  He will show us the way to move forward and how be a blessing to those who are hurting and homeless.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Let’s never forget that God knew every one of us before we were ever formed in our mothers’ wombs.  He loves us and desires the very best for us.  For those who place their trust in Him, the Lord turns even the most unfortunate circumstances, including homelessness, for His glory and our good!

Jeremiah 1:5 (NKJV)
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”.

Jeremiah 29:11-12 (NKJV)
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.”

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV)
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

Praise Jesus forevermore!

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