Among the slew of robocall messages urging our church to reply to various offers, scams and odd promotions, I found a message on our answering machine from an irate neighbor (anonymous, of course) to our church building.  The message went something like this:

Around 7:30 last night, I saw several homeless people on your church property. They are a nuisance to our neighborhood. This is our neighborhood.  It’s your church, so you should call the police and take care of this problem.

Apologies for the over-italicization of the above quote; the message basically sounded the way it looks, though.  So much anger in such a short message.

Our church community is continually trying to figure out how to be a redemptive part of our neighborhood and, in Point Loma, that means doing our best to reach out to the homeless community there. Through efforts like Laundry Love and the Ladle Fellowship downtown, we’re in the process of demonstrating Christ’s love to those in need.

But what to do about angry, territorial neighbors who aren’t so, well, neighborly?

I am certain they need to know the redemptive, transformative love of Jesus.  Maybe it’s because the brokenness of so many of the homeless people I’ve met is so evident, but my capacity for empathy and compassion comes more easily for them than for the person who left the message on our answering machine.

Reminds me of a story Jesus told.  Instead of asking, “Who is my neighbor?” the real question is, “To whom can I be a neighbor?”