(Fill in the Blank)
A shady person can become a sunny person with a little effort.
I recently had a run-in with a person whom I at first concluded was a boil on the butt of humanity. I’ve started taking pictures and occasionally I get a paid gig, which is great, especially since I’m getting ready to to back to school and I need to earn money. I received an email from someone who was interested in having me take pictures at a family reunion. It would be for a 4 hour period, and he was very specific with what he wanted, action shots at the party with some family photos afterwards. He wanted prints, and I usually don’t do prints, so I wanted to do a practice run-through before I said I would do them. I started working on this, and I also got my old Paypal credit card reader out to make sure it worked, because he asked if I accepted credit cards. We went back and forth with emails, and when I finally quoted my price, he responded and said that’s fine. He provided a local address, and then said “by the way, the venue we are using doesn’t take credit cards, can we pay you with a credit card and have you pay the venue?” That’s when I realized I’d been had. He was a con artist. Drat! Foiled again!! Luckily I hadn’t given him any money, and there was never any danger of that happening.
My first thought was to respond and say “you know, you’re a boil on the butt of humanity. People like you ruin the lives of hardworking people who fall for your scams. How can you live with yourself?” I was so angry! But then I decided that that really wouldn’t have done any good. He knows he’s a crook and he does live with himself quite well thank you very much.
Then I thought, I’m a Christian, and it’s my job as a Christian to let as many people know about Jesus as possible. This guy may be a boil to me, but Jesus loves him. And there is a chance for him to use his con artist “smarts” in better ways, to serve people or to help others. (Or to get a regular J.O.B. like the rest of us!)
So, I thought, why not instead respond with a scripture? A scripture that says that no matter what you have done, Jesus can turn your life around. It’s not too late. You can find real peace and happiness and true fulfillment in your life by living as an honest human being.
Then I took this even further. The school I will be attending is located downtown. Now, I have worked downtown for at least half of my life. I know it well, and I’ve always been completely comfortable walking the streets in all parts of New Orleans. Yes, all parts. In fact, I parked under the bridge near the New Orleans Mission and walked over 1/2 mile each way to and from my office for years without any feelings of concern at all. I mean, I was careful, if I happened to be carrying a large amount of cash (which for me is more than $5), I usually would put the money in my shoe in case I got mugged. But now things have changed, walking downtown is a little more scary. There was a shooting a few blocks from my school last week.
So, I thought, why not carry a “dummy” purse, with nothing in it but a bible verse, and the names and addresses of some local churches where that person can go and find true peace? It’s worth a try right?
But that brought up a new concern. Are local churches ready for this? I’m speaking to all churches, large and small – if a person who is an active criminal – maybe even a violent criminal – walked into your church today looking to change his life, would you be ready to receive him (or her)? What would you say? What kinds of answers would you have to offer about love, forgiveness, integrity and peace? Do you have any resources to help these people (or others) to find themselves and to change their lives for the better?
Well, I’m putting churches on notice now. I’m going to start sending people your way. They may be troubled, they may have some real problems. Are you ready to tell them how Jesus loves them and has a plan for their lives? The way to change our community is by changing the people in our community one person at a time. Are we prepared to do this?