Standing Side-By-Side – James 2
Recently, I saw the words of James 2 come to life under an oak tree, surrounded by over 80 homeless people in my community. No, I wasn’t at an outreach event to serve a hot meal or hand out jackets to help guard against quickly dropping temperatures. I was at church.
Four years ago, Ken, Wendy, and Madi Kebrdle were living the life: dream job, nice cars, gorgeous house with a pool, and a constant stream of dinner parties with friends. Life couldn’t get better—or could it? In 2009, the Kebrdles saw a dream they were missing—an eternal dream they’d rather pursue than material possessions wrapped with a white picket fence. So they traded in the perfect house for an RV and ditched their pursuit of the American dream.
As they sold everything they owned, Wear Gloves was born. The Kebrdles’ hearts broke for the hurting and homeless in their Florida community and the undignified way in which people treated them. They made it their mission to change that. Fast-forward four years later, and they’ve traveled thousands of miles across state lines and time zones, partnering with countless churches and community organizations, teaching people how to partner with the homeless in a dignified, life-giving way.
“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:1-13 ESV)
This Florida family saw how the poor were being dishonored and decided to do something about it. I don’t know about you, but that inspires me! So when I heard that they were launching a church under an oak tree for the homeless in my community, I couldn’t help but want to partner with Wear Gloves. But you know what was really cool about this church? It was for the homeless, by the homeless. It wasn’t an event led by church-going folk who came nicely dressed. It didn’t look like an “us” versus “them,” type of crowd. We were together. Homeless men and women served me communion. We stood side-by-side singing hymns, and we sought hope in Christ together. Together. In a dignified way, the Kebrdles brought the “rich” and the “poor” mentioned in James 2 together, breaking down barriers that prevented friendship and even life-change in the past. James 2 literally came to life before our eyes.
What a beautiful picture of our God’s character. God doesn’t see white, black, or Hispanic. He doesn’t label us as “rich” or “poor.” He doesn’t distinguish between “homeless” and “homeowner.” He sees people. He sees men, women, boys and girls that He desperately loves and desires to have a personal relationship with. He sees each of us, and He cares…He cares deeply. How incredible is that?
I firmly believe that the more I get to know my Savior, the more I can reflect His character. Church under an oak tree was a step in that direction. Choosing to not look at economic status and embrace people for who they are—children of God—was a step forward in living the verses of James 2. Now, I pray that when I see hurting and confused faces around me, I don’t jump to conclusions or misinterpreted labels. I pray that I respond with the character of my God: in a love marked by togetherness.
Emily is a University of Florida & College of Central Florida alumnus who’s passionate about storytelling, connecting people & making a good cup of coffee. Emily is the Communications Director at Church of Hope in Ocala, Florida, and partners with churches nationally to discover and implement their voice on social media. If you can’t find her tweeting, you can probably find her instagramming…or researching what the latest iPhone app has to offer. Find her on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.