There is no doubt that there are specific moments in our lives that will affect us forever. For most of us, these monumental moments are few and far between. For others, tragedies and triumphs come maybe a little too often-especially when these moments are predominantly tragedies.
For those who have found a family community at Joe’s Addiction coffee shop in Oklahoma City, these tragedies have undoubtedly come in the multitudes. The coffee shop, founded seven years ago in the middle of strip clubs and porn shops, opens its doors to everyone. Whether or not you have the money to buy a cup of coffee or not is irrelevant. It doesn’t take long to quickly realize that this isn’t any normal coffee shop. It is a refuge for the homeless, the drug addicts, the alcoholics and women seeking to regain their dignity.
Every year, John Brown University has the amazing opportunity to go for a short weekend and experience a small taste of what God is doing in this growing community. Growing, because there is no doubt that change is happening on a daily basis. Often times, it is hard to see the impact a ministry has had on individuals when you are only there for a day and a half, but not in this case.
In one weekend, our group witnessed a man, after explaining he had just been released from the hospital where he was detoxing, decidedly throw his pills on the ground, crushing them. One woman showed the mark from where she had shot herself with drugs just three weeks ago, explaining how hopeless she had been before finding this community. Another woman was bubbling with joy as she showed off her work badge, proud that she had a job of her own. There were also older believers who had come from similar backgrounds of addiction and pain, that were now contributing to the ministry. Others were just names, who had moved on in life because of the enormous impact Joe’s Addiction had made in their lives.
While talking to more of those affected by the love, generosity and sincerity at Joe’s Addiction, we noticed a recurring theme. They had each found a family: a community that loved them unconditionally, supported them and was there for them no matter how dark life got. While it isn’t the beautiful congregation of glowing believers that many of us imagine the body of Christ should look like, the group in many ways resembled a Biblical view of the Body of Christ.
This made me consider a theme found throughout the Old Testament. Exodus 20:5b says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” The idea from this verse is repeated several times, and Ezekiel 18 goes into this idea of generational sin much deeper.
This whole idea that your parents and grandparents in many ways affect your salvation is a scary one. Yet, it makes sense; if you grow up with parents who are drug addicts, you’re probably going to be exposed to and use drugs at a younger age.
The question: is there anyway to break this cycle?
At Joe’s Addiction, there seemed to be an answer. Almost all of those at the coffee shop were from families that lived lives full of sin and hopelessness. This sin and hopelessness was then passed onto their children. Yet, at Joe’s, these people gained a new family. They began to inherit joy, love, peace, patience and confidence in Christ that is given by God, but encouraged by their spiritual family.
We often forget that Jesus made disciples, not just converts. He lived life with a small group of twelve men. They saw just about everything in Jesus’ life. Essentially, they were family.
As we grow in our love for Jesus, He gives us love not only for other believers, but also for nonbelievers. We are meant to be family with anyone the Lord brings to himself—regardless of whether that person is young or old, sweet or sour, or from a completely different background than you. It is easy to focus on what we are used to, but there are whole communities that have not heard the Gospel and have no family to show them what being a Christian looks like.
For those who do take that extra effort to share some Jesus with those from a little rougher backgrounds, there are not only many struggles, but also many rewards. Tragedy often leads to triumphs when encouraged believers encourage those who are struggling. To be a part of someone’s triumphs can be extremely rewarding and is no doubt one of the most exciting privileges we have as God’s children.