I have yet to do a book review so I figured I would start. The Gutter, by Craig Gross, is a challenging book to read. Not challenging in its reading. Rather it challenges the way we are called to live as believers in Christ. The book flows out of an event in Craig’s life when he went to Love Park in Philadelphia, PA to witness and provide free lunches for the homeless. Having only two lunches left, he attempted to provide a lunch for three people. Craig did not realize one woman did not have a pair of shoes. One of the teens that went along with Craig took off his own shoes and placed them on this woman’s feet. Craig learned an important lesson we all need to learn. Sometimes the homeless does not need food. Sometimes we need to give in other ways that helps those in need. Craig would not have learned this lesson had he not gone into the gutter.
Within these 156 pages, Craig shares how we can interact with the gutter. His three sections break down the importance of the gutter and why we should go there. With humor and challenging statements, Craig explores the gutter Jesus entered and the gutter we should are meant to enter. What is the gutter? The gutter is a place where those who are oppressed and unloved live. Those who are never invited to the fancy parties or own the big mansions live in the gutter. It is depressing, lonely, and oftentimes frightening. Jesus entered this gutter with compassion and love. He loved those who no one else would love and gave these people who were hopeless, true hope and a future.
As believers, we are called to be imitators of Christ. We are called to live in the manner He lives. Craig opens up a new reality of what it means to be a believer in Christ throughout the entirety of this book. Craig’s gutter is the porn industry. He goes to porn shows and shares the love of Jesus with porn stars, porn producers and photographers.
One thing I learned from Craig’s book is something I believe the church needs to learn. Working in the gutter means the need to get dirty. It is not a pretty place to work. It is a place where many people live and are never noticed. We need to notice them. We need to be willing to get dirty and enter. I do not know what your gutter is or where you are called to enter the gutter. All I know is that the church has not been holding up to its end of its calling. We, as the church, have failed to love our neighbor as ourselves. I know I have said this before but the word ‘neighbor’ actually can be translated as ‘stranger.’ I wonder how many strangers I have steeped over while walking in the city. I wonder how many times I have purposely blinded my eyes to those in need because it is not convenient.
There are times when those who are in the church will not understand why we are willing to enter the gutter. They will tell us that we do not belong there. While many churches continue to grow larger, and their bank accounts continue to inflate, there continues to be a real need to share the Gospel with those who do not know the truth.
One of the stories from the Bible that Craig looks to is the story of Hosea. Gomer, his wife, whores herself around town. Hosea enters her gutter and brings her out. He loves her even when she does not love her husband. I do not understand how Hosea does it. I have so much to learn. I do not know what gutter God has called me to at this moment. But I know there is a gutter for each of us to enter. I am read to get dirty.
My encouragement is to read this book. Be open to reading the words of Craig Gross. He lives in the gutter on a regular basis. I also encourage you to ask God where your gutter is and how you can enter it to make a real difference for the Gospel of Jesus. Through our obedience and love for others, we can bring people out of the gutter and into the light. Let us get to work.