I need you to help me commit a murder.
Grab your weapon of choice, a pair of gloves and a shovel, and the steely determination to go against everything you’ve ever been taught and let’s take a walk.
Here’s our victim: a word.
What is it? Nine letters. Two vowels. Seven consonants.
I’ve grown to detest that word for good reasons. But let me explain how it all started.
A few years ago my family and I moved to the suburbs of Philadelphia to pioneer a new church. Once we unpacked and scouted out the terrain I realized that we had landed in an immensely wealthy area. This concerned me for two reasons. First, Jesus said that it would be extremely difficult to make authentic disciples out of the wealthy. Second, I knew my own heart. I knew I had the potential to be lured away by the seduction of affluence just like anyone else.
So I did something that many Christians would consider strange: I took every penny we had in our church’s checking account, which wasn’t much, and blew it all in one day on the poor. I wanted the first dollar spent at our church to make a statement about the kind of church we were going to become.
I called the police station in our area and asked, “Where is the most dangerous, drug infested, crime-ridden neighborhood in our entire region?” Without hesitation he named a neighborhood twenty-five minutes away. He said, “We send a car there every night, why do you want to know?” I said, “Well, I’m a Christian and I wanted to show people God’s love in a tangible way and thought I would buy groceries for the entire neighborhood.” His response was interesting, “Why the %!@+% would you want to do that? I wouldn’t go there without a gun. Knock yourself out.”
In a move that would make any marriage counselor proud, I pulled out of the driveway that morning without telling my wife where I was heading. The whole time I had this vision of her wondering where I was and then seeing me on the nightly news with a sheet over my body. Nevertheless I drove up to a wholesale grocery outlet and filled every inch of my van with boxes of groceries. I put enough groceries in each box to feed a family of four for a week.
When I arrived you can just imagine what I saw. It looked like a scene from a war torn country. Broken windows. Graffiti everywhere. Trash throughout the street. Cars on blocks. People passed out on the sidewalk. And here was this young suburban kid looking like Barney Fife with his arms full of pancake mix and peanut butter. To say I was petrified is an understatement.
“Okay God,” I muttered as I knocked on the first door. Work through me, your chicken.” A woman came to the door carrying a baby. I said, “Hi, my name is Brian and I’m the Pastor of a new church. I wanted to show you God’s love in a practical way. Do you need any groceries?”
“What church are you from?” she asked. “Um, well, that’s a great question! We don’t have a name. Yet.” “And you want to give me groceries? For free?” she shot back. “Yep. And maybe a quick prayer,” I responded.
Right in my face.
The light outside rattled as the door hit the frame. “Well, this is going great” I muttered as I walked away. A few seconds later the door re-opened, “Okay, I guess.” I carried the food into her barren apartment and then put my arms around her and her baby as we prayed.
Within seconds a man popped his head out of the apartment next door. “What’s going on here?” he said. I gave him groceries and prayed for him to find a steady job. Next I prayed for a prostitute, then a drug addict, then a guard at the local penitentiary who was sleeping on the floor of his apartment, then for a dozen or so others. These people had nothing. Zilch. And as I moved slowly through the neighborhood people swarmed me as I touched and hugged and prayed for as many people as I could.
When I finally got in the empty van, instead of feeling a sense of joy, I recalled my earlier conversation with the police officer and got angry.
“Why would that cop be so surprised that a Christian would want to do something like this?” I asked myself, “Why is it that people have grown to expect so little out of Christians?”
To me the word “Christian” needs to be put out of its misery.
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