Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One Bad Dude

Let me preface this entry by saying I am not trying to proselytize anyone. Okay, with that out of the way, the topic of last Sunday's sermon at our church was about the difference between acceptance and approval. As in, you can be accepting of a person but that doesn't necessarily mean you approve of what they are doing.

Our senior pastor asked one of the junior pastors to give a testimony of his own experience to illustrate the difference.

The junior pastor ("JP" for short) told us that he was a very popular kid in high school. He'd been prom king, captain of his football and track teams, and got just about anything he wanted. He also drank, took drugs, was prone to violence and was very promiscuous.

A friend of his talked him into attending the church's Friday night youth group sessions. There, he gave the youth leaders and his peers a lot of grief by constantly trying to provoke physical confrontations. He also brought drugs and tried to get the other kids to take them. I started laughing when he told us that he had even gone so far as to plant marijuana seeds around the perimeter of the church because he thought it would be cool to have a church that was growing marijuana on its grounds. I couldn't imagine anyone doing something so outrageous.

He was one bad dude, that's for sure. Finally, even though the youth leaders tried to work with him and help him, they finally had to ask him to not come back any more.

Fine with him, he said. He had only gone because of his friend. Not having to spend his time at church on Friday nights gave him more time to party, carouse, drink and take drugs. Eventually he got someone pregnant.

Not knowing where to turn or what to do, but thinking an abortion was the best solution, he called the youth pastor. Our JP remembered that despite his behavior, he had still been welcomed by the youth pastor and figured he would condone the abortion idea.

As expected, the youth pastor did welcome him and took the time to talk things over. But he was adamantly opposed to an abortion and suggested adoption instead. Despite all the trouble he had caused, the youth pastor and the other staff still accepted him and tried to help, even though they did not approve of his behavior.

That the JP is now on staff at the church tells you what direction he took with his life after his wild time in high school. Looking at him, you would never think of him the way he described himself. He looks like he's been on the straight and narrow all his life.

Some of our other pastors have also told us things about themselves that were somewhat shocking, but nothing of the same degree to what this JP told us on Sunday. I see the JP in his role as a pastor and that defines him. I think most of us would assume that he's led a "godly" life and heeding the call to ministry was just a logical extension of his upbringing.

But who knows what dark spots everyone has in their past? Can any of us cast the first stone? Someone was telling me the other day that they knew someone who was a teacher or principal at Obama's high school and that he was a "bad" student. I asked, what do you mean by "bad?" She said, because he didn't go to church all the time. I told her that plenty of kids stop going to church in high school, but that doesn't make them "bad."

I was touched by the JP's message. It's not what you used to do, it's what you are doing now that matters, and how you are set up for the future. I was also touched because, while I never came close to being the kind of fellow he was in high school, I've done my fair share and then some of things I am ashamed about, stuff that would cause the same sort of reaction the JP got were I to go and share them in front of the congregation. It's just not as flashy, is all..

Certainly the biggest change in my life was becoming a Christian. It really made me change my perspective about this world, life and what is important. As those who know me will tell you, however, I sure have a long way to go!

So what's the point? The point is I was touched by what the JP said and how he had the courage to say it in front of everyone like that, and that I can relate to him in some ways. But thankfully, we strive for something better and in doing so it is comforting to know that in the process, we are accepted.

Like I said, I am not trying to proselytize anyone. That short testimony by our JP was an inspiration, making me think back on my own life and how I am thankful to be where I am now. Just thought I'd share that with you!

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