Those Who Have Ears, Let Them Hear

Two people at the mission in the bad side of town went to pray. One was a leader at the mission, a well respected faithful man, served hot food, occasionally spoke to those gathered there, and was considered an all around great guy.  He was a pillar of the community and surrounded by Christian leaders. The other was a teenage drug addict who already had blood on his hands, only at the mission because he was so stoned that he thought his dealer, nicknamed “Down Town Jesus” would be there since the bad and cliche neon sign said “Jesus Saves”.

The faithful man prayed kneeling at the alter head raised toward heaven and audibly said the following: “Thank you Lord for not allowing me to be like that creature on the other side. I tithe and give to the poor. I donate my old clothes to the shelter, take up collections for the food bank, and I come here to serve these creatures even though they are worth nothing and will be nothing.”
The drug addicted kid wouldn’t even kneel or look up and silently prayed, “God I know you, I was raised with you, but I don’t believe that you care about me or mine. You have let to much happen and I just can’t understand it. I don’t doubt you exist God, I am just convinced you hate me and everyone like me.”
This process repeated itself several times with similar results for the next few months. One night though, the addict’s prayer changed. It went something like this: “God I know there is blood on my hands. I know that I am not living how you would have me live. I know that I don’t understand and that I am not close to worth it. I know I don’t want this and I know I want to do better, but can’t make it on my own.”
That would be the last time the addict visited the mission for some time. It would take many years, more blood, an abusive marriage, and more violence than anyone should see before it all started to come together for him, but it did. In all those years the Spirit was working slowly conforming him closer and closer to the likeness of Christ. Not perfect, but progress. At 26, he would go back and visit that same mission, not because he needed to this time, but to satisfy his curiosity. Sure enough, the same man, a bit older now, with the same basic audible prayer. The years would go on and the addict, now reformed, would become closer and closer to the likeness of Christ. Not perfect, but at least in progress.
I will never forget that mission or that man. The words of his prayer are burned into my heart. I will never forget being called a creature worth nothing that never would be anything. I’ll never forget the kindness of a hot meal only to be served disdain and condemnation as dessert by the man who helped serve it. I’ll never forget because I pray for him even today, though I have no idea if he is alive still or not. I pray that he will have the joy in life that I do, that he will see the same beauty in brokenness that I do, and that he will ache with despair every time a lost soul becomes just a little more lost. I pray that he will know the absolute pure triumph and adulation of standing with a new brother or sister coming to the waters of baptism from the darkest places this world can offer. I pray that he will have the faith of the thief on the cross, the woman who reached for even just the hem of Christ’s clothes, and the woman at the well who started the afternoon an adulterer and ended it as an evangelist.
I get it. Actions can be, and often should be condemned. Mine as well, though the worst of them are far behind me. We are more than what we do however. That is the ultimate promise of the cross. We are more than our sin, because God is greater than our sin. We are more than the blood we shed, because Christ has shed his blood to cover it. We are more than misdeeds because the Holy Spirit is working within and around us to conform us to the likeness of Christ. We are more because while we were yet sinners, Christ even still died for us. I’m the thief on the cross. I am the person caught in sexual sin. I am the tax collector, the Roman soldier come to late to faith to save Christ. I am the gang member you call animal, the Muslim you call terrorist, the homosexual you call an abomination. I am all of them. So is every other Christian on the planet. At least they should be. Next time use my name. In case you did not know it, it’s Scott. There are not many sins (a few, but not many) that you could not insert my name for, but it’s ok. Next time someone is an animal, do me a favor and just say Scott is an animal. Don’t get me wrong, it will hurt, but it pains me anyway because what you say about the most vile and despicable human on the planet, you say about me. Use my name though, and leave them out of it. I have the peace of Christ in me (some days more than others). I have gotten past (mostly) being a creature that is not anything and never will be anything. I know who I am. I am a child of the creator God. I am a coheir eternal in the Kingdom. I am refined by fire and proven by faith. I am a royal priest, grafted on to the line and brother the the Lord and Savior of the world. Those that you degrade, insult, and dehumanize though, they can be too, but when you do this, you push them away from the God who saves, not toward him, so use my name. I know who I am. The others don’t know who they are yet. Better yet, instead of insulting them, start telling them who they can be. I promise, they know who they are right now, they don’t need a reminder, what they need is to know who they can be. If you need to insult someone, pick me, the name is Scott. May as well use the name, because yes, it is personal. When you say it about them, you say it about me. See, I am just a creature, but I am God’s creature. They can be too.
While we were yet sinners, Christ still died for us.  Let those who have ears hear.

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13 Replies to “Those Who Have Ears, Let Them Hear”

  1. You might want to chastise Jesus,
    Matt 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

    Unless a viper is not an animal?
    I doubt if MS-13 members care what they are called.
    It seems only the liberal press and the Democrats give a crap. And hyper-sensitive people that don’t recognize reality when they see it.

    My only objection is that it is an insult to animals.

    1. Some simple exegesis of the passage where Jesus refers to the religious authorities as a brood of vipers reveals that he is indeed assigning to them qualities of satan, the deceiver. Further more, as he brings up the fleeing from the fire, he is presenting imagery common to the day of vipers fleeing the fires set to the fields to prepare them for planting. He is warning them that their actions put them in danger of eternal punishments. He chose vipers also because the viper will eat it’s own young, consuming them in it’s gluttony for survival. This is different than a general claim of someone as an animal in that’s it’s design is to warn and to bring about reconciliation through repentance. As an aside, the better translation is likely offspring or generation, implying again not they are animals, but that they belong to the evil one. This was common colloquial language of the day.
      “I doubt if MS-13 members care what they are called.” That’s only because you refuse to see them, and me, as human. But hey, thanks for sharing.
      “It seems only the liberal press and the Democrats give a crap. And hyper-sensitive people that don’t recognize reality when they see it.” I am not the liberal press or a democrat.
      “My only objection is that it is an insult to animals.” Good to know how you really feel about me Gary. Have a great day.

      1. “That’s only because you refuse to see them, and me, as human.”…
        Come on, Scott. If you interpret what I said that way, I certainly question your entire interpretation of vipers. Sounds like you are in the category of hypersensitive.

        He (Jesus) chooses viper because they eat their own young…this is different than calling someone an animal…???

        “It’s designed to bring reconsiliation through repentance”….
        Come on, again, Scott. You know what Jesus was thinking, and do mental gymnastics to develop a commentary to justify your hypersensitivity?

        The simple interpretation was that Jesus was angry.

        I could dig up Jesus referring to “dogs” as well. But that’s not going to change your mind. So enjoy being on Nancy Pelosi’s side for once.
        All things considered, I’d rather called an animal than a snake.

    1. I wasn’t really trying to wow anyone lol, or really make a witness about anything. Just felt like someone needed to stand for the people and try and put a hedge between them and what a lot of Christians have been saying, even if it is very small.

  2. Scott, thank you for sharing. The way you handled this is making me think and will travel with me. Ever since I came across you and your writings my life has been enriched and I want to thank you again.

    In our current discourse and political climate, I would hope that you might add our current President to the things you are willing to be called. What I mean is…I am watching politicians & news organizations condemning the President for his response to the reporters MS-13 question in much the same way as the man in your story or in Jesus’ original version of this parable. They hate him and have expressed that he is merely an animal and inhuman in a myriad of ways. Thus there condemnation of him invokes visceral responses on all sides. However, by standing with, you have been able to invoke a very different result (as least for me).

    Secondly, my theology says that we are all currently “subhuman.” Jesus, Adam & Eve (pre-fall) are the only “fully-humans” that have existed. We are all ‘less than’ what God intended and intends…thus we are “sub”-human. Jesus’ work on the cross & the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives are seeking to restore us to our full humanity!! Additionally, biologically…humans are animals. And the actions of MS-13 members have been worse than that of animals…rampant killing, beheading, etc. Thus, my ear had not really been pricked by what I’ve heard on the news reports. Nevertheless, your expressing and framing this in the parable above has helped me to better understand my objection to the politicians and much of the press (they are making claims of “at least we are not like our current president!” under the guise of defending MS-13 members…if someone they liked said the very same things, their statements would be very different). However, your way of addressing this has called me up short with how I’ve felt toward MS-13 gang members & many others.

    Thank you for the courage to share and for sharing in such a way that created space for the Holy Spirit to continuing work in my life as I am in the process of being restored to my “full-humanity.”

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read. Your words are to kind, and I will treasure them.
      I think that we can agree that humans are the pinnacle fo creation and indeed possess the Imago Dei. We have certainly all fallen short. I am not a total depravity guy, I am the Imago Dei within us all has been marred because we are fallen people in a fallen world that is deeply in need of restoration. When we refer to someone, anyone, even Trump 🙂 as an animal, that is tantamount to saying that the Imago Dei is not within them. I get that might be on a different level than most think, but I can not help seeing the Imago Dei as the one thing that definitively sets us apart from all other creation, wonderful and amazing as it is. To say that someone does not have that…I just can not bring myself to do that. So we may biological be animals, that was not the intent of the president when he said what he did. There can be no doubt that he meant it as a pejorative. That is of course aside from all the personal stuff that I admittedly have wrapped up in this.
      As for your comments about the president, they are well in line with what I am saying here. He is no more an animal than I am, and no less a human than I am. I wish he would affirm that about others, but that’s his perogative of course, and not mine lol.

  3. I have just today discovered your blog, Scott, being sent here from a link on David F. Watson’s blogsite. This article in particular is very strongly convicting to me. I have often been ridiculed or at least not appreciated by family and Christian friends for not giving up on some people who have been “hard cases,” but even I had something to learn from the way you have opened your heart here. Thank you.

    1. Whatever you learned was accidental I assure you lol. A lot of what I write, and this in particular, was born of frustration. This, in particular, was sort of like self care in many ways, and also a way to remind me that what I have said is true.

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