March 1st marked a year since we moved to Greeneville TN and since I last wrote about my best childhood friend Craig Hammerly. Craig was the unauthorized friend with whom I used to play in the woods between our houses when we were 6 or 7 years old. I say “unauthorized” because Craig was that “bad kid”. My mother forbade our friendship. So I’d grab my Tonka dump truck, excavator, and matchbox cars and meet Craig secretly to play. Craig didn’t have any toys so it was up to me. Craig lived alone with his grandfather. Rumor had it that he “did… things to Craig” – the kind of things that people didn’t talk about let alone do anything about in those days. Craig got held back in the third grade and we eventually grew apart. He grew grew more angry and became the school bully that everyone was afraid to fight. Craig couldn’t read but he was good at fighting. Man could he punch hard. Elementary school mythology had it that “he’d knocked out a high school kid when he was in the sixth grade. Even the teachers were afraid of him.” He moved away before we got to Jr. High. Ironically after 50 years I felt prompted to look him up on the internet. He was all over the internet. Craig, who called himself Damien Knight had been on drugs and in and out of jail for most of his life. He’d been arrested again just a week before.
Craig beat his roommate to death with his fists.
Craig is by definition,dead in his trespasses. Eph 2:1
The Acts 17:11 Bereans Bible study just finished Ephesians chapter 3. We ended last session with all of us pondering the breadth and length and height and depth and the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, Eph 3:18-19 We all agreed that His love is best understood in contrast with who we were; dead people appointed to wrath Eph 2:1-3 versus who we are today
in Christ Jesus. Eph 2:4-6
God’s definition of love is counterintuitive to that of the world.
Even more counterintuitive is that “Dead in our trespasses” puts all of us on equal footing with Craig and even the worst serial killer.
That’s a hard red pill for some.
It’s not that our actions here on earth equal those of Dahlmer. Rather it is that all dead people are equally dead. Jesus clearly illustrates this principle in Luke 13:1-5 …No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish...
At the end of the day the only thing that any of us brings to our salvation is our sin.
That should be really good news to all but the unholy trinity of
Me, Myself and I.
Thankfully Jesus prescribed the antidote. Mat 16:24-26
“My Identity” is a favorite theme in the church these days. If there is anything good in me now it is Jesus. My identity is in him Col 3:3 “But what about 2 Cor 5:17?” “I thought all things are made new.” Yes, they are and yes you are. But only in Christ Jesus. Narcissism hates that. Narcissism can not survive in Christ Jesus. Thankfully, the Father is conforming us to the image of His Son Rom 8:29 in an ongoing process of transformation and renewal Rom 12:1-2.
Once again we don’t worship a God of this or that. Our God is a God of this and that. So often believers skip Oh wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?… Rom 7:24-25 to the so much sweeter Rom 8:1-2 where There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus… Yet, we must embrace and internalize both if we are to do more than just scratch the surface of His love that surpasses knowledge.
Oh wretched man…
I raised a few eyebrows when I wrote about my Holston experience in For the Love of Sid. It was inspired by the Toy Story character that everyone loves to hate. Some were disturbed that I would still identify with the evil Sid. “I refuse to see you as Sid,” said one friend. “But you have a new identity now!” assured another. Well…
Yes and No
I ended up living on my own at 14 and subsequently took Craigs place in the community. Suddenly I was that bad kid with whom mothers forbade their children to associate. I walked a lonely angry path that eventually landed me in jail. I could have easily been where Craig is today. But I came face to face with the love that surpasses knowledge amidst a point blank shotgun blast. I wasn’t looking for God. I was looking to die. Little did I know I was already dead. Jesus showed up and saved me. And not just from the shotgun. He saved me from me. Why me and not Craig? If you say it is because there was something different about me then you’ve missed the point entirely.
I’m no longer dead in my trespasses. Nor am I consumed by guilt, shame, and condemnation. Still, I am very much Sid. I am Craig. I am Jeffery Dahlmer. The only difference is that I am in Christ Jesus.
God loved me and still loves me in spite of me not because of me.
God loves me because of who He is.
This is such a deep core truth and just the beginning of His love that surpasses knowledge.
The best I can do today is to be grateful and love the people like me that He sends my way. Luke 7:47
I shared the story of Craig and me with some of the boys with whom I work. You know you’ve hit a nerve in boys when they just look you long and hard in the eye and don’t say word. Only one boy asked a question. “How does that make you feel Mr. Brian?” “Sad” I began
We ended the Bible study session with my favorite allegory about a righteous African King whom everyone loved and respected. His word was unshakable. He said what he meant and meant what he said.
One day his administrators reported that someone was stealing chickens in the village. If you’ve been to places like Mozambique then you know that “chicken thieves die!” So the King made a decree. When the thief was caught he would receive one hundred stripes, enough to potentially kill a grown man.
The next day the thief was caught and brought before the king. It was the kings mother. The king was distraught. Still he commanded that she be stripped and tied to the whipping post. “One hundred lashes!” cried the king, “and not one less.” “If I even think you are holding back I will have you executed.” The men assigned to the task moved solemnly toward the kings mother. “Wait!” cried the King. “There’s one more thing.” The King stood and removed his shirt. Then covering his mother with his own body the King exclaimed,
Even this does not begin to describe the love that surpasses knowledge.
Even so, Passover has officially started as I publish this.