I grew up in the jungles of Indonesia, far from any city. My parents were there as missionaries among cannibals who killed and ate our coworkers when I was six years old. My experience may be different than most people, but not as different as you might think. We all live in a world that consumes and discards us when we no longer fit into its framework.
Ministering to the outcasts was at the heart of all that Jesus taught and did two thousand years ago, and His message of hope for the hopeless remains the same today.
Growing up in a tribal culture, I was unfamiliar with many of the Western world customs. I was used to running in the jungle where I didn’t need to wear a shirt or shoes. When my parents returned to the states in my early teens, I felt totally lost and untethered. I was alone in a busy world that was foreign to me and more, I was rejected and bullied. In a very real way, I was an outcast.
I know many of the homeless can relate. Being looked down on, being avoided, being made fun of—I can identify with those feelings. I think we are all just trying to find our place in this world. In some ways, we are all homeless when we’re rejected.
“What you do to the least among you, you do to me,” Jesus taught. Not just people you agree with, or those in your religion, but everyone. In today’s vernacular He might have said, “What you do to the homeless, you do to me.”
Even more, He didn’t look down on the outcasts, instead, He told them that they were the light of the world. The gospels tell us that those with “various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed;” were being brought to Jesus for healing. He was speaking to them. He wanted the outcasts to see their inherent beauty and He invited them to awaken to the light within them.
Jesus was telling them how beautiful they were, you see? His was a message of hope for everyone, especially the destitute because in many ways we all find ourselves destitute at some point in our lives. Who will come and tell you how beautiful you are when you find yourself outcast?
After moving to Nashville, I had the opportunity to serve at Nashville Rescue Mission where you will find people who are attending to the needs of the homeless, without question. This is what loving the outcasts looks like.
It is said that you cannot be in the light and hold another in darkness, because in holding another in darkness, you only darken your own world. So we seek to love our neighbors as ourselves and walk in the light as we see the light in all we meet.
The Mission is doing that every day. This is the kind of love that holds no record of wrongs. It is the kind of love that shares with them what is ours. It’s why I support the Mission and the work they are doing. It’s important that we remind the homeless how beautiful they are because in a very real way, we are all homeless.
Ted Dekker is an American author of mystery, thriller, and fantasy novels including Thr3e, Obsessed, and the Circle Series. His novels have sold over 10 million copies worldwide. Two of his novels, Thr3e and House, have been made into movies. Dekker resides in the Nashville area with his wife Lee Ann and one of their daughters. The oldest of his four children, and first daughter Rachelle Dekker is also a writer.