When I saw the offensive graffiti written on the house, in 2 ft high letters, I though to myself, here goes. This is one of those situations you read about in the papers and hope to never see. The bad spelling said a lot – if you can’t spell ‘paedo’, it’s probably best not to write it on a wall – but that’s not the point.
So where does Jesus send us when this happens in our street? As far away as possible, I hoped. Probably best not to get involved. But Jesus was never really a ‘don’t get involved’ kind of person. Instead he said go and knock on the door and see if the guy is ok. And if he wants help cleaning it off. Actually it was Fran who said that, but Jesus tends to use her like this.
But people might see, I thought. And the man might be grumpy? It’s probably best not to get involved. Keep my head down.
So I knocked on the door. There was no-one in. Phew… But a man called through the window from a house opposite. He warned to me stay away. Why? Because I didn’t want to give the church a bad reputation hanging round with people like that. The church already has a bad reputation, I replied, which may not have been the best response. I am not worried about that, I said.
Actually I am. Not so much the church’s, but mine. Jesus may well have hung out with people of dubious reputation and survived but… hang on, he didn’t survive. Jesus may have had the confidence to ride social shame – even violence – but I don‘t know if I do. I don’t think I am so good at slipping away unnoticed. I certainly have no 3 day rising plans. What if the church was targeted in a ‘guilty by association’ way; what if my house was, or my family? And… and… and…
There are always excuses. Always reasons. But kingdom values are different values. And this is where it shows. I do not believe scrawling on people’s houses is any sort of justice. I do not believe destroying people’s reputation publicly is any sort of trial. And this is true whether or not the person is guilty or innocent. I believe in justice. I believe in grace. I believe in a love beyond all compare. Which means that even those guilty of the most grievous crimes are still worthy of love. As are those publicly accused by the mob.
As are those who do the accusing.
Not everyone can love like that. I don’t know if I can. But perfect love drives out fear. The light overcomes the darkness. And there are more important things than reputation.
(And credit to the council – graffiti removed within 36 hours)