In the wake the recent mass shooting, I find myself silently judging all the jeremiads hammered out on keyboards and then slung out into the middle of the information superhighway. This silent judgment is then swiftly followed by my own internal chastisement, “Oh yeah, Mr. Judgy-Judge McJudge-Pants? And how are you contributing to a solution, sitting there sipping your re-heated coffee in the comforts of your first-world surroundings?” And I think of all the suggestions people of both high and low positions have made and they all seem somewhat reasonable but ultimately not satisfying for a variety of reasons.
“No more AR-15’s. Period.”
“Better mental health screenings for gun-purchasers.”
“Get the right judges on SCOTUS.”
“Since all mass shooters are male, no more guns for male civilians.”
Ok… I made up that last one. But a couple days have gone by and I think I have an action item we could all implement. Pray for God to put bad disciples in your life. Like one of my seminary profs said, “We all want good disciples. We all want someone who hangs on all of our words and immediately puts our advice into practice. We all love someone who thinks we are right about almost everything and tries to convince others that we are right. But no one wants someone who listens to our advice and pretty much does the opposite.” Boy oh boy, he was right. I don’t want a disciple who bores me with inane babble about stuff that only three people in the world care about. I don’t want someone as a disciple who ignores my advice, is lazy, is stubbornly foolish, who chews with their mouth open, or has bad body odor.
But if I only pursue the good disciples, it’s more about my comfort and my satisfaction, not love for my fellow human. But if we learn to love bad disciples, then we might have to sacrifice something that we would get no return on. Learning to love bad disciples might require us to change. Learning to love bad disciples might help us know the mind of Christ better.
Maybe learning to love a bad disciple is how we get upstream with the next mass-shooter and save the next 17 victims. Maybe it isn’t. But getting credit for changing a life and preventing a future mass shooting isn’t the point either. There will be no metrics attached to this action-item that some statistician somewhere can track. No political body could ever point to something on the books and take credit for it. This kind of action won’t make it into your newsfeed on Facebook. But it’s what’s best for the outcast who feels alone. It’s what’s best for the family who doesn’t know what to do with their brooding child. It’s what is best for our communities where all sorts of people feel alienated with no real friends.
So let’s learn to pursue that awkward high-schooler we notice at church. Ask them to lunch on a regular basis. Ask that 18 year-old sitting by themselves on their phone if they could come over to help you change the oil in your car or help you rake your leaves. Ask them questions and listen. Wade through the awkward silences. Endure the extensive talk about the latest thing they’re into. Resist the urge to correct them right out of the gate. Our first job is to listen and know them. Pray for them (and their parent(s)!). At the end of the day, we might not make a long-term friend or get much gratitude for our time and effort, but we will become an embodiment of our Lord who “…sets the lonely in families…” (Ps. 68.6).