Karine Gombeau was visiting New York City recently when she encountered what appeared to be a homeless man sifting through garbage. She gave him her leftover pizza. As she explained later, "He was going through a bin, I had food with me. I thought, 'He should have my pizza instead of going through that bin.'"
It turned out Gombeau had stumbled onto the set of Richard Gere's new movie, "Time Out of Mind," in which he plays a homeless man. According to Gombeau, the actor was dressed in character and "looked like a man going through a rough time." Gere thanked her for the pizza and said, "God bless you," never revealing his identity.She had no idea who he was until she saw the picture of their encounter in the media the following morning. "Suddenly, I look up to see the news and there I see myself, a picture of myself on the news," she said later. "I was taking breakfast with my family in the morning, and I see myself on the TV and think, 'What did I do? I don't believe this.'"
The tourist's encounter with the celebrity/vagrant is a fact, but an invitation as well.
The Brookings Institution recently released a report outlining major challenges for churches in today's culture: growing secularization, divisions between secular and religious Americans, and our polarizing politics among them. Not surprisingly, young Americans are less affiliated with religion than any group in our nation's history. According to Brookings, liberal churches have a great opportunity to demonstrate their relevance in our culture by confronting poverty and other social issues. In so doing, they can win young adults who respond favorably to justice initiatives.
I agree that liberal Christians can impact our culture by showing the relevance of their faith to our challenges. But I wonder why Brookings would limit its focus to this segment of the church. Evangelicals and religious conservatives are more passionate than ever before about economic justice, human trafficking, the environment, and other social issues. Cannot all Christians care for the homeless and hurting in Jesus' name?
Here's the paradox within our story: everyone is Richard Gere, yet no one is Richard Gere. Everyone is hurting in some way, homeless in a part of their hearts. But unlike the actor playing a role, our pain is real, our hunger genuine. Christianity uniquely values the sanctity of every human being. And Christianity uniquely teaches that what we do for hurting people, we do for our Lord.
So the application of today's Cultural Commentary is obvious: feed a hungry person, physically or spiritually, in Jesus' name. And know that Jesus is the Bread of Life who promises, "whoever comes to me shall not hunger" (John 6:35). Is your soul hungry today?
Publication date: May 2, 2014