In high school, I used to run with a popular group of teens. One of our friends and his Dad were on a political campaign to keep Dayton from annexing Huber Heights and so we started stealing Dayton Ohio metal signs and poles and blinking yellow construction barrels and lights. We did it in the dark of night and I felt like it was okay because my friends Dad approved so I wrongly programmed my brain that there is righteous stealing. One thing led to another and before you know it, we were breaking into a classroom and we stole the answer key to a math test. I remember my heart beating when the teacher caught me in her room and I claimed it was unlocked when actually we crawled in through the window. She was so disappointed in me and it pierced my heart as I was disappointed in myself too. I lied to her and that hurt too.
By college, I was running with some old buddies and some new and we were stealing keys from teachers’ desks and running through the buildings at night taking things. I know now there was no real moral difference in whether the item you steal is big or small but that was my moral code I lived by. I stole letterhead from the Dean’s Office so I could write official looking letters to friends to make them go to an appointment that didn’t exist because it was hilarious LOL and I took other things. We even broke into an observatory to check out the glory of the galaxies around us and broke onto a roof of a 32 story building walking on the edge of death staring at the small lighted cars of Cincinnati below us.
A guy I knew was a bit of a wild scientist used to take much more valuable things. He took a square wave generator from a lab and then he took a 12 yr old girls’ skull from an anthropology lab. For much of my life, stealing was one of those subtle sins in my life. I took the small trinkets from work or electrical supplies or compressed air fittings etc. It seemed inconsequential but in God’s eye, some day I will have to give an account.
SALT & LIGHT
He eventually stole my heart because of the salt and light of others and now I steal no more. Herb was a friend that we all knew was a Christian but he liked hanging with us and he didn’t hassle us much and took us fairly unconditionally so we liked having him around. Soon he was taking some things too on our adventures like classroom signs to hang in his dorm. In one of his weak moments, he came down on my friend about stealing valuable things and in classic agnostic response, I shot back at the Christians’ juggler vein, calling him out as a hypocrite as I said ‘your signs are the same as my friends expensive lab equipment’. I really didn’t believe that at the time because I followed Herb’s code of small things. We know Jesus despised the religious leaders and ‘hypocrite’ was His term for them so that was good enough for me to lay into him with to deflect the light he was shining on my sin.
Well what transpired next was salt and light to my dark heart. Herb didn’t say anything. Instead, he went back at 2 am in the morning and put the signs back up on the walls of the University. And worse, he wouldn’t even hang out with us anymore. I was wounded inside but it was exactly what I needed as I knew that Herb did the honorable and right thing. And I can imagine he apologized to God and pressed the reset button but I didn’t really know how Christians worked then or what it meant but I what I did know was that Herb was no longer the image of a hypocrite in my mind but instead someone that walked the walk. That day, I imagined this is what Jesus looked like. He didn’t look like the world but he was separate from the world and he spoke truth not by just what he said but more by what he did.
[Bible, Book of Matthew Chp 5:13-16] “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Lord, Thank you for people like Herb that let your light shine before men at the cost of mocking and loss of friendship. They will not know how many people they lead to you by doing these things. Bless Herb and others like him for their faith to follow You through the narrow gate of life. Your wingman, Steven