The doorbell rang this afternoon. It was one of my neighbors—an older woman a few houses down. She pushed her way into our foyer and threw a petition in my face.
"I’m going around the neighborhood getting signatures for a petition against low-income housing going in. Will you sign this?"
I was startled. What was this pressing issue? I glanced at the sheet. Yes, she was right, all the surrounding homes had signed on.
"What is this about?" I asked innocently.
She sighed in a huff. "You know what those people are like." She then ripped into people—people—who are low income, calling them an expletive (maybe I should have mentioned that I’m a pastor and that she was standing in the entrance to our church office!), saying "they" would lower our property values.
Does that really matter to me? Do dollar signs dictate my actions over concern for the poor? Didn’t Jesus say something about what you do unto the least of these?
All these thoughts flashed through my mind in a moment. Until she shattered it with her intensity: "Sign this!"
"I don’t know enough about this issue."
"What do you need to know? Look, it’s coming up at the City Council tomorrow night. Unless you’re going to the meeting to voice your opinion, you need to sign this."
"But I don’t know what …"
(Interrupting) "How much did you pay for your house?"
Her rapid-fire, passionate zeal was more than my little mind could handle. How much did my house cost? I honestly couldn’t remember in the moment. And even if I did, why did I have to tell her? And why did it matter? This home is temporary—I’m truly more interested in advancing the Kingdom.
All I could do was stutter and apologize over and over again. I think my wife, who was in the next room listening, was snickering at me. (Later I found out she too was deeply troubled by both this woman’s demeanor and message—"What kind of people?" my wife hypothetically questioned to me later. "People who may need God!".)
Finally, realizing I wasn’t about to sign the petition, she left abruptly. No "Thank you for your time." No apology for interrupting. Nothing. I think she was mad at me.
It’s been a few days since this happened. But I keep replaying the moment in my head. I wish I had lovingly and calmly explained to her that I love people more than I do my property value. Call me naive by the world’s standards, but I truly don’t care "what kind" of people move into the neighborhood.
My role in the Kingdom message of Jesus is to love people. Period.
Telling someone "Not In My Backyard" just doesn’t seem to jive with Jesus’ message. I wish I would have said, "I hear what you’re saying, but as a follower of Jesus I have to embrace His message: Love Wins."
But then again, she probably would have thought I was arrogant.