Summary: When we disrespect our own children, we disempower them, we give evidence that ours is a sick community, and we write off God’s ability to redeem.
The church was plagued with two bad boys, or maybe it was three. The two really bad boys offended nearly everybody in that church. They ran through the hails, rudely bumping those who were in the way. Elderly ladies cringed when they saw them coming. Small children screamed and hid behind their mothers’ legs. Deacons got aggressive, wishing they could turn these hooligans over their knees and give them the good stout board of education. But it was hard to get hold of the problem of those two bad boys, or maybe it was three.
One of the bad boys was the pastor’s son, and out of deference to his father, nobody did much of anything about him. His thing was to explore the church building, from top to bottom. While Sunday School was going on, he was in and out of all the rooms, mugging and giggling. During worship service he was in the closets, down in the boiler room, raiding the refrigerator in the kitchen, and making phone calls from his father’s desk. They let him have his run of the place, and muttered under their breath about how no good would ever come of this boy. This one was not going to amount to anything. Preacher’s kids never do. Every heart stood still that Sunday the pastor actually interrupted his sermon to scold his son, who was lobbing those little golf pencils churches use off the balcony rail and into the light fixtures.
I see you, balcony! Don’t even think about it!
As for the other bad boy, well, he wasn’t the pastor’s son, but he was the rich man’s son. His father and mother swung a lot of weight around the church, because they put in lots of cold cash every Sunday, so nobody could afford to offend them. They were carrying a large part of the church program on their own shoulders. And so, again, everyone gritted his teeth and grumbled that this other bad boy, this other arrogant, loud, boisterous clown, he also was doomed to a bad end. This one played football with his brothers right in the middle of the crowd trying to leave the worship service, He ran off with the pastor’s Bible just before preaching was to begin. He loosened all the saltshaker lids, so that everybody’s Wednesday night dinner was ruined when they dumped too much salt on their parsley potatoes. They said he was incorrigible. No good could be expected from him.
After all, they reasoned, if they come from bad families, or at least families that will not manage them, then you cannot expect anything but bad boys. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, right?
Two bad boys, and maybe a third, who often got drawn into following the other two. Who secretly and quietly enjoyed the pranks the others played, who wanted badly to be liked, and who therefore joined in the fun when he could get away with it. They probably didn’t think anything positive would come from him either. Two bad boys in that church, and maybe a third.
The problem is, however, that when we focus only on certain behavior, and don’t see anything else, we may miss the things that really matter. If we see a person only for what he does right now, and not for what he might become, we may miss out on what God is going to do in his life. And if we think we have explained somebody just because of where he came from and who his family is, we have missed out on God’s greatest miracle.
I’ve had some comments this week about my sermon title. "Dissin’ the Homeboy". Some have wanted to know what "dissin’’" means. Where have you been? Others have asked what a homeboy is. You haven’t been listening, have you? Still others have wondered if the pastor’s been out in the streets and not buried away behind the stained glass, like pastors are supposed to be. And one of you even suggested that my syntax was off and my language politically incorrect, that I should call the sermon, "Dissinggg the Domestic Person." Whatever the words are, do you have a feeling for what "Dissin’ the Homeboy" means? "Dissin’ the Homeboy" means disrespecting our own. It means devaluing those who are part of us, part of our family, part of our community. It means putting down and disregarding our own children. “Dissin’ the Homeboy” means not seeing that the so-called bad boys and bad girls have potential. To diss’ is to disrespect, disregard, and write off our very own.
The best bad boy story I know is found in Mark, chapter 6, where Jesus comes home. Back in his home community, among his own family, he speaks at his home synagogue. Kind of like Youth Sunday or Graduate Recognition Sunday at Takoma Park, Jesus comes to speak at the synagogue. The response was swift, decisive, and caustic. Listen to how those people dissed their homeboy: