Pastoral Perspectives

Because God is our home

In a recent nationwide study of homelessness in Singapore done by Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, it was reported that there are about 1,000 homeless people sleeping on the streets in Singapore. The study also noted that the even though about 40 per cent sought help from a number of places including the Social Service Offices, they still found it hard to break out of their homeless predicament due to the complexity of their problems. 

One of the reasons as observed by Abraham Yeo, founder of Homeless Hearts of Singapore (HHS), is that “people become homeless not because they run out of cash, but because they run out of relationships”. Although some may actually own a flat or are renting a place, they do not feel safe enough going back at night to sleep and resort to sleeping rough instead.

Thus, it is heartening to know that over the past two years, the Ministry of Social and Family Development has been stepping up its partnership with community groups to reach out and aid the homeless. One of the initiatives includes bringing together the different groups helping the homeless (eg. Catholic Welfare Services, HSS) and launching the Peers Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) Network. In this way, those who shun help from the authorities can still receive the necessary support through the staff and volunteers of the respective charities whom they have built a relationship with over a period of time.

Given the brokenness that the homeless experience, having a stronger community support will undoubtedly go a long way in their societal reintegration. Indeed, if community is the solution, then Christians can certainly play our part as we seek to be a sanctuary of peace and redemption as the church of Christ. If anybody should know what a home and a community should be and feel like, it should be us who have been graciously drawn into a relationship with the Triune God.

Whether we own a physical home ourselves or not, the Bible reminds us that “God have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Ps 90:1). When Moses spoke of this truth, what he had in mind was more than just a splendid building or comfortable shelter that Israel could find rest and seek refuge in. After all, Israel herself would be familiar with the experience of being “homeless” given that having a place to stay in Egypt can hardly be described as home.

Yet, Moses could pray what he prayed because he understood that regardless of the circumstances which Israel found herself in, God remains faithful to his people. As one Bible commentator points out, what Moses is emphasising in this psalm is not the “dwelling place” part but the “in all generations” part. Together with Moses, God’s people are to marvel at God’s faithfulness and his eternal “unchangeableness” since before God had formed “the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2).

For all of eternity, God has and will never change in his being and in how he relates with those who belong to him. Through all the generations of His people’s existence, God has always preserved and protected them. Reaching back all the way to Adam and Eve, God remains the home of His people for He is the redeeming God. Whether Israel was in slavery under the Egyptians or wandering in the desert, Israel can have the assurance that they can always find their home in God.

In contrast to the many in the world who trust in their own strength and are preoccupied with building a home apart from God, God’s people are to trust in him. We are to rest in God’s faithfulness and know that in God, we already have a home that will be for all eternity. As much as God will “return man to dust” (v.3) and our lives here are as a “watch in the night” (v.4), God’s people who are mindful of our mortality will learn to find delight in the steadfast love of God (v.12-14).

Undoubtedly, God’s word hit close to home for within the span of this week, we have two beloved church members who were called home to the Lord. The circumstances in which they passed on could not be more different. One of them suffered a heart attack while he was out by himself. A passer-by performed CPR on him before the ambulance arrived. Nevertheless, he breathed his last shortly after being attended to in the hospital. As he did not have any personal details on him, it took a while before the hospital could contact his next of kin.

The other was already warded in a community hospital due to an aggressive cancer and had to rely on morphine to relieve him of the severe pain he was experiencing. During his stay in the palliative ward, he was visited by many since doctors were not hopeful of his recovery. On the day just before he passed on, he was surrounded by family members and several church friends who ministered to him with prayers and his favourite Christian songs.     

Regardless of their manner of passing away, we thank God that because of their faith in Christ, they will be resting in the eternal home which Jesus has prepared (John 14:2-3). For them, they have completed their labour here on earth. For the rest of us, may God’s grace continue to abound and establish the work of our hands (Ps 90:17). Since God is already our home, let us not be caught up with vain pursuits of property speculation or the frantic business of home decorations. There are far too many who are without an eternal home in God. Surely, for those whose God is their dwelling place, we can always make room for others to know Him.

Rev Edwin Wong

November 24, 2019