[Editor’s Note: Today’s post is an excerpt from the book “The Gutter: Where Life Is Meant to Be Lived” by Craig Gross.]
Many times I have discovered that I banish people to the gutter when they don’t believe like me, act like me, speak like me, or look like me, but it is in the gutter that Jesus defined his model for the most effective ministry. When I miss Jesus’ example to the gutter, it’s only because I have forgotten the pain I felt when I was in the gutter of my own life. We forget the gutter is the one thing that we all have in common – it’s the great equalizer where everyone becomes equal. Why? Because we are people who have all experienced problems and pain only a gutter can produce. To go to the gutter is to be changed by the gutter. Those that are most opposed to the gutter are the ones who have been there the least.
Jesus spoke of the gutter in Matthew 25:45 when he said “That which we do to the least of them, you have done unto me.” The gutter is the place where the least of them live. For the religious, the gutter can be the place where people don’t believe what we believe, or where people do dirty things. In other words, the gutter is where the sinners are.
When I accepted Christ as my savior, I was lifted out of the gutter, but I was not made better than those that remained. If I’m going to be honest and real with myself, I must remember that my own failures are no different than those that are called the worst sinners, because in God’s eyes, sin is sin. In reality, I am the worst sinner I know. My expressions of love for Jesus can make me feel like I am better than those in the gutter, but I must remember that whatever I do to them, I’m doing to him.
Got that? Good. Now let’s talk about the… following principles:
1. The Difference Between “Them” and You Is A Small One.
That small difference is your discovery of Jesus and how that discovery wound up making a huge difference in your life. Those in the gutter are in need of a Savior; you and I can be the ones that bring him to them.
2. The Only Mistake In The Gutter Is Not Going.
Okay, before you get the wrong idea – I’m not saying you can go into the gutter and start to live the lifestyle of that gutter. I’m saying that as long as you go on Christ’s terms and with Christ’s attitude, it’s impossible to make a mistake. Look, I can be a lazy guy, and my procrastination has kept me away far too many times. It seems like I’m always finding ways to stay in the comfortable climate of Christian circles that make reaching the lost impossible, but that is in direct contrast to Jesus’ ideas about Christian living. Jesus encouraged us to enlarge our circles and get in the gutter. We only screw up when we stay away.
3. Identify A Need That Can Be Met.
Serving and meeting a need was the greatest way that Jesus connected with people. We too can meet needs in the gutter, making our efforts more effective. Meeting a physical need before asserting a spiritual need is a great tool. Whether it is a pair of socks and sneakers, a cold cup of water, five loaves of bread or two fish, Jesus laid the plan for success in the gutter. Pastors and church leaders, Christians young and old, every person willing to get in the gutter can help fulfill their part of the Great Commission.