Bad boys wiv bovver boots
Junkies, users, boozers
’Ells Angel ’eadcases
Gamblers, wide boys
Losers, loners, winos
Everyone, in fact
I once knew a Christian who was a ‘prison visitor’; she told me how she constantly had to remind herself that all the inmates with whom she came into contact were objects of God’s love. To imagine some of the inmates as being ‘lovable’ was a big ask, and it is just as well that God’s ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). As part of a house group course I once went with fellow members into a remand prison. I felt some of the inmates were genuine bad ‘uns, but many seemed to have just had the misfortune of being born on the wrong estate. We have to remember that God loves them unconditionally and yearns for them to redirect their lives.
Being part of the ‘body of Christ’ means that we have to get on with all manner of people, like it or not. God shows no partiality and is no respecter of persons (Leviticus 19:15; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11). Of course, we don’t have to condone criminal acts. We don’t have to share everybody’s views or values. We don’t have to like other people’s dress sense or musical tastes. But we have to acknowledge that these outward expressions are no barrier to God’s abundant love. It’s a big ask, but we need continually to be aware of the extent of God’s love; we must be sure that our judgement isn’t just based on taste or first impressions. As Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, “in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Vagabonds is a well-known Christian song by Stuart Townend (with Mark Edwards and Phil Baggaley). It starts, “Come, all you vagabonds, Come all you ‘don’t belongs’, Winners and losers, Come, people like me….”. It’s chorus goes, “Come to the feast, There is room at the table. Come let us meet in this place. With the King of all kindness Who welcomes us in with the wonder of love and the power of grace”.
If you don’t know this song, it’s worth listening to. It makes you wonder who you will meet in heaven.
(Objects Of God’s Love appears on my New Testament: The Early Church page).