Clothed with Love: Extending Grace Beyond
A couple years ago I walked into Richfield Middle School and noticed one of our Young Life students in tears at lunch.
When I asked him what was wrong he didn’t say anything. He put his eyes toward to the ground to hide his face and kept shaking his head as tears hit the floor.
Another student at the table said, “Someone keeps calling him homeless because he wears the same clothes to school every day.” My heart immediately sank and his problem became my problem. Not because I wanted to defend him, but because compassion is a natural byproduct of relational ministry.
His pain invited me into his struggle and I needed to do something, anything.
At recess we took a walk around the schoolyard and I told him I’d be back the next day with something for him. He simply said, “Ok.” The following day Christmas came early and he got some new gear to sport around the school. Getting a student some new clothes was not an act of heroism. It was a response to Christ’s call in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, to “Go and do likewise.”
In Luke 10:25-37, He invites us into a life of service and sacrifice. A life in which the needs of others are noticed, a response is made, and the needs are more than met because grace extends beyond what is immediately needed. The Samaritan didn’t just bandage the wounded man and hide him in a cave. He went above and beyond, taking the man to an inn, staying the night, and leaving more money with the innkeeper in case there were extra expenses needed. Being a neighbor means that the problems of others become our problem, their needs become our needs, and we seek to extend grace to the broken. But not only grace, Jesus paints a picture of a neighbor who extended grace beyond. Grace upon grace, more “than needed” grace, abundant grace.
Extending grace beyond is a commitment that requires effort, sacrifice, and time.
While the priest and the Levite in the story passed by on the other side, the Samaritan put forth an effort to help, sacrificed his plans and possessions, gave of his time and even offered additional time and money if the needs required it. The Samaritan did not just meet the immediate needs of the man who was robbed, he was also concerned with the long term implications of the man’s circumstances. He did not just offer a helping hand, he extended his heart to bring about healing.
Seeking to be the type of neighbor we find in Luke 10, I desired to extend grace beyond the needs of one student. Serving at a school with almost 70% free and reduced lunch, I knew that there had to be more students who would benefit from some new clothes.
So over the course of a couple months, I connected with friends, fellow Young Life leaders, and our faith community at church. Within a few months we opened a FREE clothing store in the basement of Richfield Middle School stocked with clothes for students in need. We brought in garment racks and hangers to sort and display the new and gently used inventory. We repurposed old lockers as a display for shoes. We did not just want to provide clothes, we wanted to extend grace beyond by providing a dignified shopping experience.
Most of us have the luxury of choosing clothes that we like.
For some of our students, getting “new” clothes meant digging through a lost and found box on the dirty locker room floor. Now they can find their size and pick something that is uniquely them – something that expresses who they are. It is a small thing that brings me great joy, when I hear a student say, “This shirt is so ME.” Or, “I love these shoes.”
Getting hand-me-down clothes was never a dignifying experience growing up. On the other hand, finding an awesome t-shirt at the thrift shop always put a pep in my step. Knowing that, my desire went beyond getting clothes to those in need to providing students with an opportunity to seek and find something that put a pep in their step.
The administration and counselors at the school expressed their gratitude for the project and tell us that dozens of students utilize the store each week. Teachers, parents, and other churches have started to collect clothes and help re-stock the racks. A teacher who I met at a conference in Nebraska, told me she opened a store in her middle school after hearing our story. It is amazing to see the awesome things God can do through us when we decide to extend grace beyond. What started as a movement to serve one student in need has turned into communities of caring people serving communities of students in need.
As we respond to Christ’s call to be a neighbor that extends grace beyond, develop eyes to see the needs of those who are often overlooked. Don’t pass by on the other side. Stop, extend grace upon grace, and see what the Lord can do through you.
Cesar Castillejos is currently serving students and families in Richfield, Minnesota, through collaboration with Young Life and Hope Church. He serves as the Young Life area director and lead teaching pastor of The Well, a faith community that started in a nightclub. Cesar is also the founder of One of One Clothing Company, a mission-focused business that uses creativity to spotlight the uniqueness of every individual.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.