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Nobody said it was easy

Recently, I was reading Eastern’s student handbook and found this statement on page four: “We nonetheless submit ourselves to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ in our dealings with one another.” I was perplexed, because recently I was directly involved with a situation which completely contradicted this statement. It caused me to wrestle with the question: Are our jobs (careers) ever supposed to supersede the call to follow Jesus Christ?

On Oct. 18, my friend Greg, whom I have known for some time, came to campus to spend the night in my dorm room. When I asked my RA for the required visitor registration form, his eyebrows raised in slight although clear suspicion of the legitimacy of my guest’s visit. He then proceeded to call my resident director, who, with hesitation, decided that it was okay for Greg to spend the night.

Hours later, around 1:30 a.m., the decision was retracted and I had to make a few frantic phone calls and find a place for him to stay. Thankfully, a group of friends living off-campus understood the gravity of the situation. We were both able to sleep at their house, and got up at 7:00 a.m. to go to our respective jobs-Greg got SEPTA transportation to his workplace, and I drove back to campus.

I need to explain why I was told to escort Greg off campus: he is a middle-aged, black homeless man. The fact of the matter is that my Resident Director was uncomfortable with him staying on campus. Her job is to provide for the comfort, safety and security of all members of the community.

Some students may have been made uncomfortable by the fact that a middle-aged, black homeless man was visiting the campus. Allowing him to stay overnight could have raised some difficult questions; after all, we have all heard stereotypes that homeless people are violent or addicted to drugs.

In light of these stereotypes, I can just imagine what my mother or father would say to my Resident Director if one of them found out that one of my hallmates was hosting a homeless man: “How dare you put the life of my son, and the rest of your students, at risk!” Wouldn’t your parents say something similar?

Greg is neither violent nor drug-addicted. In fact, he is employed as a full-time counselor for recovering addicts at a resource center in Norristown and is an active volunteer at his local church. The decision to have him leave campus was based on unwarranted fear and concern.

On that Thursday night, the values of goodness and justice collided with the values of security and comfort. Now, we as a community must take up the task of sorting out the aftermath of the collision. No longer are we, the Eastern community, just talking about justice, as we do so often in class, chapel and our hallways. We have blatantly refused an opportunity to provide a hurting man with justice in the heart of our own campus.

What place do the values of safety, security and comfort have in an institution committed to following the “example and teachings” of Jesus Christ? There is nothing in his words or his life that indicates a safe or protected life experience.

Our careers will not always be easy; some may argue that Christians don’t even belong in some occupations. I have learned in classes and from taking time to read the Bible, that following Christ will be uncomfortable and potentially dangerous.

In Matthew 25, Jesus states clearly that “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me,” and then, perhaps even more importantly, “Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (emphasis added). Sometimes, helping “the least of these brothers” is dangerous, uncomfortable and often contradicts the rules and policies we are expected to follow.

Greg came to a campus where our policies reflect a commitment to obeying Jesus’ teachings and imitating his example. The right thing to do was allow him to have a place to sleep. Instead, the bed he was given was taken away from him and he was asked to leave.

It is a sad day when Eastern University staff members are expected to subjugate the words of Jesus to human notions of security, comfort and safety. It is a sad day when the fact that some students may be uncomfortable prevents us from following Jesus. If we take Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 literally, then in some way, Jesus himself was sleeping in my dorm room. It is a sad day when Jesus would have slept in my dorm room but was asked to leave because allowing him to stay would have put someone’s job on the line.

Our job is not to follow the policies of the places we work or submit to their rules. Our job is to take what Jesus both said and did seriously, and apply it to our lives today.

So let us begin to forget our careers, and instead, do our jobs. I encourage us all to consider our careers and jobs, consider the rules and policies we abide by and consider the daily choices we make. Are these choices truly reflecting an attitude of submission to “the example and teachings of Jesus Christ,” or do they contradict and clash with his commands and lifestyle?

Come, let us reason together, and strive to become a community that steps out of our comfort zones and forsakes security for the sake of the Gospel. To truly follow Jesus Christ is nothing less than this.

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