When I was a young, I looked forward to the Super Bowls that the Dallas Cowboys played in (being a Cowboys fan is an inherited loyalty passed down from my parents). Though as a general rule, I am not a sports fan. I like attending sporting events (occasionally), the hype and the energy can be exciting. But really I don’t care about sports, and I don’t pretend to. I get very bored very fast. I like football season only because I like to nap to the sound of it on the television in the background.
But now the Super Bowl has become an annual tradition that I anticipate every year. And since the Cowboys haven’t made it to the Super Bowl in, well so many years now that I have lost count, I decided it was time to find a new cause for festivity. For the past three years my husband and I have volunteered to throw a big party at a local community venue. (You know how much I love to throw parties!) We offer a variety of foods, snacks, desserts, and drinks. We have the game on, put out lots of chairs, and spend about four to five hours hanging out with some really amazing strangers.
Most of these people I have never met before. And most of these people have very little in common with me. But most of these people are the kindest, most interesting and accepting people I get to spend time with out of my entire year. The demographic that make up this party range in all ages and upbringings. They are honest, real, and attentive, which I find very refreshing.
Yesterday we decided to take our party up a notch. We had a local restaurant cater chicken fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and rolls. There was also a nacho bar, a pop corn station, and a dessert bar. We had soda, tea, coffee, and hot chocolate. (It was not a day for counting calories!) We rented a projector screen and had the game projected on a screen so big everyone could see from all around the facility. But let me be clear, it isn’t only my husband and I hosting. The past two years we have partnered with our church family and leaders from our mission team, and together we are able to throw quite a fun shindig.
My favorite part of the whole night was after serving everyone their first and second helpings of dinner, just sitting down right in the middle of all these strangers and being in community: cheering on our favorite teams, sharing some fun rivalry disputes, eating cupcakes, laughing at the commercials, and enjoying Bruno Mars’ half-time performance. They accepted me, even though I was a girl and know practically nothing about football. They took care to educate me about the players and where the teams originated from. They made me feel loved probably more than I was capable of reciprocating.
I don’t know the final head count, but if I were guessing we had about one-hundred to one-hundred and fifty people at this event. It was a memorable game, not because the Seahawks won (because according to my husband we were rooting for the Broncos), but because of the radiating beauty of diversity.
Childcare was provided for the families in our church that volunteered, so couples got the chance to serve alongside one another without the responsibility of being parents. But whether married or single, every person volunteering was eager to help make our guests feel valued. And that was what made it beautiful, it wasn’t about us and how generous we were to volunteer our time and energies for the sake of others. It was about the brimming affection shared between both sides of strangers. It was about love that knew no boundaries.
But isn’t that the beauty of the cross? I seldom feel more like Jesus than when in the midst of my humility I am compelled to love someone who doesn’t know me and has nothing to give me in return. Last night I had no “spiritual agenda,” no schedule of things I wished to accomplish so that I could mark it off of my “philanthropy checklist.” I went because I was compelled to love. And that goodness is not rooted from anything found within sinful ole’ me.
These wonderful people I have been telling you about have at least one thing in common, really just one thing that makes them different from me. They are all homeless. And although some of them are visibly broken, some of them abused, and some of them given to addiction, they are all precious to me. And in their imperfections I see grace. The same grace that is freely given to me is given to them. And that makes us the same.
“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-21