Sit/lie and what Jesus would have done

Local Christians and their deafening silence on the reinstated law

The author, the Jesus Center’s former executive director, teaches online for Simpson University.

Three years ago I was fired as director by the board of the Jesus Center primarily for objecting to the 2015 sit/lie ordinance enacted by city authorities. Tellingly, over half of the members of that Christian board were realtors.

Since then, Christian leaders supporting Christians in city authority as well as most Christians in authority themselves—even local churches—remain silent in objecting to the reinstatement of an ordinance that flies in the face of Jesus’ own assault on the civic purity of his day.

Jesus carried within himself the burden of those “unworthy” at society’s edges. “Worthy” homeless suffer foreclosures, natural disasters or unanticipated circumstances like unemployment and bankruptcy, while “unworthy” homeless are unemployable addicts, mentally ill, chronically homeless and transient youths.

Jesus mixed with all, especially the “unworthy,” eating with them, offering them a seat at the table of the kingdom of God. Homeless himself, Jesus was finally executed among the “unworthy” as the crucified God. That’s Christian orthodoxy.

Five years ago, the affront of seeing homeless men and women waking up bleary-eyed on a Sunday morning in downtown places while the propertied “Church in Chico” seemingly drove unconcerned to places of worship was a moral problem leading me to begin Chico Street Pastors.

Today, with even more people without shelter, the forgotten 1990s WWJD fad must be brought back to combat the sit/lie ordinance and the obvious desire to remove homeless people from the downtown community.

I cannot speak to those of other traditions, but I can to my own. What Would Jesus Do? He would command Christians on to the highways and byways of Chico to speak the good news of transformation through what we disciples of Jesus call the gospel—the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus for our sins (Luke 14:23).

Our presence would rouse the unruly, offer hope to the hopeless, prayer for the mentally ill and potential resources for the desperate. Yes, risky business—but when did Jesus ever call Christians to produce discipleship in a gated community?