Saturday, May 2, 2015

Jesus came for the Bad Guys. Jesus came for us.

Thugs. Criminals. Drug Dealers. Bad Guys.

These are words I've seen and heard a lot lately. You probably have too. Or maybe you've said or written them lately. Or thought them.

I actually spend a good amount of time with Thugs, Criminals, Drug Dealers and Bad Guys. You see, I work on an inpatient Behavioral Health unit in a hospital. Many of my patients are there to detox off of drugs.  And I volunteer at our local day resource center for the homeless.  Many of the folks I see there have some criminal histories or drug backgrounds too.

So when I see those labels, I have faces that go along with them. Faces of people who have been dealt some very difficult cards in life. Faces of people who have made some poor choices. Faces of people who have not been given many choices. Faces of people who, given the opportunity, would give anything to turn things around. Faces of good people who have crippling addictions.

Thugs. Criminals. Drug Dealers. Bad Guys.

But I know them as Moms. Dads. Big Smilers. Good Huggers. Hard Workers. Volunteers. Overcomers.

Just this week I spent a few hours with a gentleman who has not been out of prison long. I think he spent 15 years or so in prison. "A terrible, violent place," he told me. A place where he had to "do what I had to do sometimes just to protect myself." He told me of times in his life when he certainly could have been called a Thug. A Criminal. A Drug Dealer. A Bad Guy.

I helped him with some paperwork. He wants to get back on his feet. His plans are to stay out of prison. And although he has some serious medical issues and pain, he walked me to the door and held the door for me when I left the building. And then walked me all the way to my car and insisted on opening my car door for me.  He told me that when he's back on his feet, he's going to take me out for coffee.

Thug. Criminal. Drug Dealer. Bad Guy.

Those are easy labels. But unless we've walked in someone else's shoes, unless we've faced the same hardships, the same situations, we really need to stop and consider if it's worth it to stick those labels on people. I have yet to see a situation in which labeling someone has made anything better.

People are complicated. Our history is complicated. But we can put down our labels when we see each other as equals.  Maybe I was able to help that gentleman with his paperwork, but I am no better than he. Our lives are so different, but for a few hours, we worked together on a task as peers.  When we stop categorizing each other and relate to each other as humans, it's awfully hard to get labels to stick.

Jesus came for the Bad Guys. He came for the Criminals, for the Thugs, for the Drug Dealers. He came for us.  God loves every single one of us.  And if we love him, it shouldn't be that hard for us to love the people he loves.  It works like this: we are so solidly filled with love that it overflows. That's why it's easy to love others - it's not our love in the first place. I don't have to manufacture love for others out of thin air. I just use the love of Christ - the love I've been given in spades.

And then we can use a much better label: Friend.

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