Homeless Jesus

Soooooo…..

I was out for my lunchtime run today, when I was literally stopped in my tracks by a new addition to the Belfast landscape. Outside a homeless centre I regularly run past, was a statue. At first glance, it appears fairly unremarkable. It’s a bronze sculpture of a man lying beneath a blanket on a park bench. What caught my eye, however, was the name of the sculpture – ‘Homeless Jesus.’

Behind the statue was a inscribed description of the piece. It was created by a Canadian sculptor, Timothy Schmalz, and depicts Jesus as a homeless person. His face and hands are obscured by the blanket, but the crucifixion wounds on his feet reveal his true identity. The sculpture is intended as a visual translation of the words Jesus gave to his followers in Matthew 25:45.

‘As you did it to one of the least of my brothers, you did it to me.’

Over the last couple of years I have built tentative relationships with a number of rough sleepers who I regularly pass in my travels around the city centre. I’ve blogged about them in the past and one of the main characters in the book I’m currently writing is homeless. I try to help these folk the best I can, by conversing with them, helping them where I can financially, and basically treating them as human beings.

I could do so much better though. When it’s been near the end of the month and the bank account is running low, I’ve been known to actively avoid my homeless friends as I cannot afford to buy them a cup of tea. Even though very few of them ask for money and often I have to force it upon them. They are proud young men and women and are loathe to be regarded as wasters and scroungers.

The statue stopped me dead today for it pricked my conscience. I once attended a suicide in the homeless centre outside where it is now located. A tragic end to a young life, but sadly no longer a rarity amongst our urban homeless communities. The underbelly of our society which we are quick to hurry past on our way to the office, or chuck a few coins in their direction and smugly feel we have met our social and moral obligations for the day.

I can do so much more. I call myself a Christian and like to view myself as a decent person. Yet, what would Jesus make of the behaviour I’ve described in the paragraphs above? Talking the talk and walking the walk, but only when it suits me. Even if I can’t give them the coins in my pocket, I can still afford them my time and prayers. I’m not perfect and I never will be. But I can do better. Much better. Can you?

What do you make of ‘Homeless Jesus’?

Do you do enough for the homeless people in your town or city?

63 thoughts on “Homeless Jesus

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  1. Luke 9 records Jesus as saying “The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” I make it a point to give to the outfits that provide meals and places to sleep for them. I give clothing and coats to the shelters. I will buy a homeless person a meal. But I won’t give money to them. Too many times it’s simply used to buy booze, or drugs.
    But you’re right, we can do better. The question I ask myself everytime I go to work is what can be done to get these people off the street and leading productive lives. I don’t have that answer yet.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We have a terrible homeless. Problem in the Bay Area of California. It’s very unfortunate. And it’s hard to help sometimes. Because you can’t help everyone. And that can be very overwhelming. I’ve had very positive and negative experiences with the homeless. But you’re right, the thought and prayers you can give are infinite.

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  3. I help when I can and I know it’s not enough. My situation could change overnight from sheltered and warm to sleeping in the woods. It’s sobering and frightening. Thank you Stephen for being a caring man. Jesus will honor that.

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  4. A powerful message and verse. Honestly, yes I wish to do more for the homeless, but when we fall short God already knows it would happen. He’ll throw in these little nuggets to remind us of how we should be walking the walk and talking the talk. It’s apart of growth, but whomever designed this statue had a great mind for thinking out of the box. That image and verse is very powerful. Sometimes we need reminders, thanks for giving us that! ☺️

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  5. Reblogged this on Beutiflee and commented:
    This is from another great blogger. I am always inspired by his post and his writing technique. But the message here is very dear to my heart and the relationship Jesus has with Gods children. As we can never be like Jesus, but wow what an amazing example to follow. Keep reading!

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  6. Very powerful thoughts. Each one of us in our daily walk could possibly do much more. Helping the homeless shelter with goods and funds makes me feel that I have done my part. Maybe I need to pray and ponder this more. Thanks for the prod.

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  7. My son & I were both homeless & had to stay in shelters in Niagara Falls. I was in the DV shelter & he was in the shelter for teen boys two doors away. We have never forgotten this.

    I also used to work at one of Buffalo’s largest homeless shelters. I still help every way I can, even if it’s just a few coins or a cup of coffee for a homeless friend on the street. Many of the homeless are our veterans.

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  8. I try to help as much as I can. I have a thing for street children and the elders in nursing homes since I was in grade school. I myself don’t have much but there are lots of ways to help.
    Great read. 🙂

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  9. You do the best you can, when you can. You show a good heart and a kindness to people you barely know. That means you are doing what’s right. I always feel like I am not doing enough when I am in the same situation as you but I think that’s our upbringing. (Guilt!) At some point in everyone’s life we all need a hand. If everyone tried just a little the world would be a better place. 🙂❤️

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  10. The sculpture is very powerful, as is your message…I am always reluctant to give money, but will happily (usually happily) spend 20€ or more on a bag of food, if I meet a homeless poerson outside the supermarket. It can be dispiriting though when the person then looks in the bag and rejects what you have bought…

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  11. Every evening on my way home from work I would walk past a homeless gentleman, I never gave him money but I always said hello while looking him in the eye. At times when I stopped to chat he was always so very pleasant, and always kept me humble as it’s only a twist of fate and the roles could be reversed. We give all of our gently used clothing and items to charity in the hope that someone else can use them, it’s not much but at least it’s something.

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  12. Thank you! None of us can do enough, but the fact that you have a relationship with some of the homeless folks speaks volumes – to them and to us. I’ve been part of the homeless population. Mine was through a series of many bad choices. Many others become homeless due to circumstances that most of us don’t even think about. What I have learned, through conversation, observation, and experience, is being acknowledged, being “seen” is of momentous importance. To often every one walks by quickly, with eyes avoiding contact, ignoring the plight of their fellows. A simple acknowledgement can change a mood or an outlook.

    I have long recovered from the situation I put myself in. So many others are not so lucky. Financial overabundance hasn’t been my blessing so I often have little to give moneywise. I do have my time and the compassion that comes because of my relationship with God. I do have the ability to treat my fellows as I have been treated, to be kind and caring.

    I most certainly do not have all the answers to poverty and homelessness. It’s can be so overwhelming, that I do nothing. Mother Teresa reminds me, “We can do no great things. Only small things with great love.” I’m convinced that those small things snowball into amazing displays of God’s grace.

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  13. There are so many homeless. Some are homeless by circumstances beyond their control but unfortunately, I also know of a few who are homeless because they “Will never be caught punching a time clock.” — Jesus tells us that we will always have the poor with us. I pray and comfort and console as many as I can. They seem to appreciate it. I also offer to take them to a restaurant and buy them a meal. The really hungry ones take me up on the offer but the alcoholics and the dopers always refuse the meal and ask for money … which I never give them. (We have to be good stewards of what God has given us). The problem where I live is that all the homeless seem to know one another and if you make a habit of being too generous with them they “Target” you and swarm you for handouts. It is a tough moral and spiritual dilemma to be sure.

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      1. It is never about me, Brothers and Sisters — It is always all about Jesus! God bless you for the work you are doing with your blog. You have chosen to set your light on a lampstand where it can give light to all who are in the house. I appreciate you and I love you in the Name of Jesus!

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  14. Great post! And yes, I definitely can do better. There are homeless people who are regulars at the library where I work. I think the most important thing to remember is that they are people too and deserve respect and dignity….I have gotten to know a one of them fairly well. He’s got a wonderful sense of humour and almost always has me chuckling with his wit and his mischievous nature. Like most people I have bills to pay, rent to make and food to put on the table, it isn’t always easy to help financially – but as you correctly point out, our time and attention costs us nothing. Thank you for your candor and for pointing a light on an issue that is still too much in the darkness.

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  15. I really enjoyed reading this. Thought provoking & moving. Thank you for sharing your insights on the topic so honestly. Agreed on fronts— those of us not devoid of a home should aid the homeless more and treat them like humans rather than scurrying past them. Cheers

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  16. Ah, such a beautiful story but for one part. Please don’t beat yourself up about not sharing when you are stretched to your limits. I don’t believe Jesus wants us to save the world-which you and I are prone to do. ❤ You are a good man-there are so many who don't care, not one bit. Love to you both~

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  17. After I got sick with PTSD I learned that a large number of the homeless population (in America, not sure about elsewhere?) are veterans suffering with PTSD. My heart was greatly stirred by that, and while I’ve always felt empathy I feel something much deeper now (due to my own mental health struggles) toward those I meet on the streets. I’m not sure how to translate that feeling into actions though. So I too am falling short.
    I love the Homeless Jesus statue!

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  18. I like the story and this comment is going to seem like I completely did not get that point, but it made me think of one time when I told someone Jesus was basically a bum. I did not word it the best. But they told me, “how dare I say that about Jesus” They thought I was lying when I said Jesus was homeless. I said no, in fact, He encouraged His followers to be homeless. Take nothing in your purse and go town to town, give up all you own and follow me. Who really follows Jesus? if so we would all be homeless going town to town, sleeping where ever they accepted us. Scary thought in today’s times. Just my thoughts. If we can’t be homeless we should at least try and feed them! I use to help out a lot more then I am now. Money is not the same. I also know a true homeless person will accept food. it is easier for me to give a portion then a dollar, so although I may not have cash a plate of food they won’t be denied. The town I live in we pretty much have so many options to eat, if your homeless. it is the shelter that is lacking. if I ever get money going to open a few homeless shelters. My prayers. I say dreams too, but I think prayers are stronger. So maybe one day those prayers will be answered. God bless you and thank you for this post

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  19. As another commenter quoted, we are told in Luke 9:58 “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Let us also consider what sorts of people Jesus associated with during the three years of his ministry. He essentially hung out with the most ostracized people in society. If we want to be Christ-like, we need to spend time with homeless people, listen to their stories, and use our own discernment to decide how each person might be helped on an individual basis.

    Statistics reveal that approximately 25% of homeless people are drug-addicted. What about the other 75%? I can testify through personal experience that the vast majority of people who become homeless in urban areas become homeless for socio-economic reasons, usually combined with a life crisis of some sort. While it is true that a person with a drug problem could easily lose house and home, it is unfair to stigmatize the whole bulk of homeless people as drug-addicted. Everybody needs money in order to live.

    When I encounter a homeless person today, I spend as much time with them as is needed for me to make a reasonably informed decision as to just how — or if — I can help them. I believe that we should all follow Christ’s example, because after all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. We need to strengthen the weakest link in America — the Homeless Link — if we really want this country to be strong.

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  20. This was a very compassionate post. I have never seen that statue before. Takes my breath away and humbles me.
    Years ago when my son was in Bible college, I was upset to learn they were teaching their students to assume those holding signs on the street and those who were homeless had gotten there by being too lazy to work. While I usually didn’t try to undermine their authority, I immediately reminded my son that not once did Jesus ever ask anyone who he found begging or came across “How did you end up here? Are you willing to go right now with me and work for a meal? I have a job and shelter if you want to work?” All just as tests or scolding someone already so humiliated by having to ask for help. Jesus helped EVERY beggar (using the biblical term) He came across. We always gave what the Lord allowed us to, even while we were going without ourselves to the point our church did a food pounding.Yes there are dishonest people too, but you have to leave that to God because you could accidentally refuse to help someone who truly needs it.
    God loves all of His children!

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