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Bottle, Blanket, and a Bible

April 8, 2014

I heard a story the other day about a homeless man and a rookie police officer. The homeless man was frequently arrested and the whole police force knew of him. When being arrested he would be confrontational, or even violent, with the arresting officer. Each time they encountered him he had a bottle of booze, a blanket, and a Bible.

As the rookie officer took to the beat for the first time on her own, they warned her of this man and his erratic behavior. At some point she encountered the man and she was going to have to take him to jail. She told him she had to pour out the bottle of booze, but told him he could take the blanket and Bible with him to the jail where he would get it back after he was released. He was stunned to hear this. During every previous arrest they made him leave his stuff with someone else who then disposed of it. He was confused by this officer’s behavior. Needless to say, this young officer has had to arrest this gentleman multiple times. Never has he been belligerent or violent towards her.

Why has he not been belligerent or violent? Because she treated him as a human being who had value. She accepted him for who he was and treated him with respect. She saw the blanket and Bible were his sole valued possessions. This got me thinking about church life and how this applies to our lives in the church.

So often we are like the seasoned officers. We prejudge people. Where those officers thought he was a homeless drunk who disrespected them and assaulted them, many times the church prejudges people in the same way. We judge by appearance, smell, noises, size, and the list goes on. After prejudging these people, we then behave like the other officers and make our visitors leave their things behind. We tell them they need to dress differently, take out their piercings, cover their tattoos, and sober up before we welcome them.

When you hear church described like that, why would you want to attend? Why would anyone want to attend? Why do we expect them to dress and act appropriately, whatever appropriately means, before we will accept them? If we believe in sanctification, a word that talks about the ongoing process a believer goes through during their lifetime to become more holy, none of us act completely appropriately. We are all working towards our future perfection and until we get there we are still flawed.

I challenge every Christian to reevaluate how we treat people. Do we treat them like the seasoned officers? If we do and continue to do so, we should shut the churches down now and save time and money. If we transform our way of thinking to behave like that rookie officer, we will have churches that are accepting of people of all walks of life and at all stages of their lives. The rookie showed grace, mercy, and love. I challenge the church to step up and show that same grace, mercy, and love to everyone.

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