Crossing the Road to the Poor: Where Do I Start?

Read Proverbs 19:17

Miroslav Volf, a Croatian-born theologian … provides a model important for those interested in reaching across borders and connecting in a way that truly brings about transformation. … [He] describes four natural stages when two people encounter one another, and each one is critical if understanding is to occur between two different parties.
The first stage is to simply open our arms. This doesn’t necessarily mean to stand with our arms spread out like a bird in full flight. Rather, it means opening and preparing our hearts and minds to receive the other person.

The second stage is to wait. This is hard for most of us who want to rush in and help. Shouldn’t we just slather the love of Jesus on another human, whether the person is ready for us or not? No, says Volf. Be patient. The embrace needs to be mutual and reciprocated.

Third, give the other person a hug. Not a smothering or crushing bearlike kind of hug that overpowers the other person. You need to feel their hug too.

Finally, says Volf, let go, and allow the person to retain his or her individuality and uniqueness.1

Miroslav Volf’s model of embracing provides an important structure for people wanting to increase the probability of truly life-changing road-crossing experiences. He provides no magic formula guaranteeing that every road-crossing encounter is going to catapult participants to new spiritual heights. … [It] simply offers a language and theology that can lead God’s people to … those places where true reconciliation and broader vision for justice, compassion, and understanding can be discovered. p. 146, 147, 153
Miroslav Volf, Exclusion and Embrace (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1996), 141-145

Bruce Main
Challenge: Think about crossing the road to the poor. What would opening your arms look like? What would waiting look like? What would your embrace look like? How can you de-center yourself this week to make space for that person on the other side of the road?

Prayer Focus: Father, thank you for the many ways you have blessed my life. Help me to always remember that the blessings I enjoy come from you; therefore, I need to be willing to share those blessings with those in need. May I always be willing to open my arms to the poor and needy, the way you open your arms to me every time I ask.

For more on Urban Promise please visit

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *