I love reporting assignments because they involve meeting people, asking lots of questions and doing research – all my favorite things.
I recently wrote an article about the Salvation Army and discovered that it began in London in 1852. William Booth was a minister who walked London’s cobbled city streets in search of the same folks Jesus had embraced– the homeless, hungry, sick, and outcasts of all sorts. Booth wanted to bring them to Christ and then lead them to church where they could continue to grow spiritually. But like the Pharisees of old, the established churches of London kept these strangers at arm’s length with “those pews” set aside for “those people.” Disgusted, Booth took the real meaning of “church” back to the streets. Soon he had an army of followers determined to bring salvation to the least and lost. The movement quickly spread across the ocean and in less than 20 years, “The Salvation Army” established roots in the United States.
You would think that 19th century Americans would have behaved differently when Booth’s followers reached out to those on the fringes of society. Instead, the “Salvationists” as they were known, faced organized gangs, mocking and even physical attacks. It was after President Grover Cleveland met with the Salvation Army, and leaders in the United States endorsed the movement, that hostilities ceased.
Sometimes even a civilization based on rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness can falter, can drop the ball, when it comes to “those people.” Sometimes churches can too. Thankfully God continues to correct churches and societies when they go off course with brave citizens, wise clergy and folks in the pews who upset the apple carts of Christians who wear the name but refuse to carry the Cross.
Two thousand years ago Jesus astounded the world with His love for every person He encountered. He taught us that every soul matters to God and warned that in the end, “The first shall be last and last shall be first.”
There are many churches where members welcome all who enter and where people find food for soul as well as body. It doesn’t matter if you are a CEO of a corporation or a convicted felon on parole. In America we believe in second chances, in the value of being able to try again, knowing few get it right the first time around. That sentiment did not start in 1774. It was started by a humble Jewish carpenter who became a Rabbi whom society nailed to a cross one dark Friday afternoon.