Friday, July 13, 2018

I Like to Visit Prostitutes & Drug-Dealers, Don't You?

The church is a sort of hospital for men's souls 
and as full of quackery as the hospital for their bodies.
-Henri David Thoreau

"Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God's kingdom. John came showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, 
you didn't care enought to change and believe Him."
-Jesus to His disciples* 

I come from a crisis of three perspectives: I am the father of three children, a son and two daughters, I am a pastor at a Wesleyan tradition church, and I am a Law Enforcement Chaplain that encounters prostitutes, drug-dealers, and thieves. 

This is a crisis because three convictions walk side by side along the trail of my life. The father in me is fiercely defensive for my children. I see the brokenness of crime, the empty chasm of darkness that swallows people whole... and I am desperate to keep my children as far from that evil as possible... at any cost.

I am also a pastor. I see the devestation of lives that can happen so easily to any family that turns away from a pursuit of Jesus and a life as intended by God. I see what we call "sin" and I want to shake the dust off my boots and run back to bar the doors. I forget sometimes that light beats darkness.

My hope though is found in the third unlikely conviction that comes from my work as a Chaplain. I sent a text to my pastor this past Wednesday that stated, 

"I just left the home of the prostitute. I'm going to the home of a drug dealer, and I'll likely be in jail shortly therafter."

He said that he was forwarding my text to our Board of Elders. I chuckled because the Chaplain had crossed into the realm of the pastor.

I've done this Chaplain gig now for about six months. Here's how the encounter goes down. I begin the conversation, "Do you have any faith connection, or maybe a church or parish?" The response, "I went when I was a kid. I just don't believe in that stuff anymore. All the people are just fake anyway."

I've learned to nod my head and agree. "I know. You're right. I'm so sorry. I'm a hypocrite too." That answer may be offensive to some church-goers... but it is the only answer that grabs the attention of that suffering soul in front of me.

The person looks up in surprise... I have earned her attention. 

Then I say, "None of us are well. We're all sick one way or another. A faith community just let's you know that you're not alone. There are people who can pick you up when you fall. You need to know that I am here because you matter. Your life is worth something. You have a reason to live." 

Something happens deep in that person in that moment. As I look into her eyes, there is a shift that can be both seen and felt. Suddenly I'm looking into the face of a frightened and lost child. I can see desperation. I can see a person who has been beyond hope... who suddenly believes there might be a chance.

In our churches we forget how desperate we are without God. We can become so comfortable that we go comatose and sleep through the arrival of our savior.* The arrival of Jesus in your life always results in life change. When Jesus comes smashing into the life of a drug-dealer, a prostitute, or a thief... the result is unmistakable. 

And yet so many of us in the church can at times live like we are a people without hope. It is time to shake off the shackles of complacency and to reject the lies of fear and hopelessness.

Because I walk with Jesus, I do not fear for my children. Because I walk with Jesus, I do not fear for my church.
Because I walk with Jesus, I go to those who receive Him.

Yes, the church is filled with quakery. Yes, those who follow Jesus at times become blinded to the truth while those who suffer the wages of sin most can see His salvation most clearly.

But do not lose hope. The Church is still the greatest carrier of God's light. And light isn't afriad of darkness. Light destroys the darkness. I hope you find a crisis of perspective in your own soul. Embrace it. Let God take the hammer and chisel to your imperfection.

Carry the light.

*As recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew, 21:31-32, the Message; see Matthew 25.

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