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Obviously, as Christians, we’re not in a contest with others to see who can love God more. But if you’re like me, you really want to learn from those who love God more than you. Who are these great giants of faith to whom we need to open our ears so we can follow in their footsteps? Look no farther than the gutter.

A man I met recently named Mark had been homeless and a heroin addict for 20 years. He found Jesus in a Christian rehab program and was radically changed. While in the program, he trained as a chef at a cooking school. At 51, he now uses his skills to cook for the homeless in a soup kitchen that serves breakfast seven days a week.

Mark finished at the top of his class and was recruited by numerous prestigious restaurants. He prayed about how he should respond to these job offers, and ultimately felt he should stay at the mission and continue serving God there. He’s staying because he loves it, and he loves God. This man has peace and joy I truly envy. Materially he has nothing, and yet in the things that matter most he has everything.

Jesus was once having a meal at a religious leader’s house when a woman who had a reputation for living a sinful life entered, having learned He was there, and anointed His feet with her tears and some fragrant oil from an alabaster flask. The host was shocked. So Jesus told this story:

” ‘There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed 500 denarii, and the other 50. And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?’

“Simon answered and said, ‘I suppose the one whom he forgave more.’

“And He said to him, ‘You have rightly judged.’

“Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears … I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little’ ” (see Luke 7:41-47, NKJV).

Jesus was criticized for letting this sinful woman touch Him, yet He used her as an example to teach the “more respectable” people who were hosting Him. She loved Him more. I think Jesus is still trying to get through to us as Christians today, and still using sinners to do it.

So many of our hang-ups, anxieties and worries would be molehills instead of mountains if we could get proper perspective on our position in the kingdom of God. We have been forgiven much and don’t fully comprehend it because there is plenty of stuff to help mask it, causing us even to forget it. The mentally ill, the addicted, the poor and the oppressed are faced with their stark realities every day, which makes them acutely aware of the amazing grace of God. We must humble ourselves and learn from them.

Living in the richest country on the planet has a strange effect on us. We may have more than we need and still be dissatisfied. We look at those who have failed to achieve and tend to despise them. And yet these same broken people are the ones God hears when they cry out.

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise” (Ps. 51:17, NIV).

“Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice” (Ps. 55:17).

I am going to suggest that you spend time with these people who love God so much. I have been fortunate to make many friends on the streets through the church plants we have been involved with.

I have learned lessons from prostitutes about faith. I have been given powerful words from people who are homeless and mentally ill. I have cried out with those who are brokenhearted and experienced God’s presence. I have been touched by Jesus in surprising ways.

Like the woman with the alabaster flask who poured out everything she had on His feet, I want to join her in kissing Jesus’ feet. I want to thank Him for the undeserved mercy He lavishes on me. I just want to love Him more.

founder of CityTribe Church in Elizabeth, N.J., and pastor of Breath, a Foursquare church in Cranford, N.J.

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