Aurora (Colorado) Police Office
Matt Springer shared his latest verse-by-verse study through Paul's second epistle to the young Christian church in Corinth at this past Thursday's FCPO-Aurora "cop church" fellowship. I found his title -- "
Playing in the Mud" -- most intriguing. Here's Matt's recap from his study that I send with a prayer that you'll apply it to your own lives and ministries (yes, EVERY Christian is called to some form of ministry). I'll have some additional comments at the end. Matt writes:
I spent a good portion of my childhood playing in the black mud of Houston, Texas. One of the fond memories I have was of making mud pies. I can remember taking that black earth and mixing it with leaves and stones before pouring in copious amounts of water. The more water you mixed in, the muddier you got.
I was thinking about this as it relates to the passage written in 2 Corinthians 2. It suddenly became clear that both ministry and discipleship (a ministry in itself) can also be messy. Our lives are full of dirt, stones and leaves (difficulties, spiritual warfare, sin, etc.) that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and empty inside. When someone pours the "water" of the Holy Spirit into our lives, things can get messy (muddy).
We have to remember that people are largely complex, emotional and yes, messy. Paul, writing under the direction of the Holy Spirit in Romans 3:23, tells us that "all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God." This is, no doubt, is part of the message that Paul delivered to the church of Corinth in the eighteen months he was present building and pouring into the saints (believers) there. But a number of false teachers had come into the church after Paul departed and left the Christians there overly critical of Paul's message -- essentially the gospel of Jesus Christ -- and his authority to deliver it.
When we take this same message out to those who are lost, in despair, or who are broken (whether they are our fellow officers or contacts on the street), we must remember that people, in all of their complexity, are messy. When we bring the "living water" that Christ talks about in John 7:38, we must expect that things might get sloppy.
Paul felt the mud between his fingers as he told the church how hurt he was for their turning away from the gospel and all he had taught them. He used strong words like "affliction" and "anguish" to drive home the difficulties he was having in his own heart over those who had fallen away. Paul reminds each of us that when we deliver the gospel to others, we might very well be denied or even made fun of. Jesus made it clear when he said,
"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me, before it hated you" (John 15:18). Jesus added to that in Matthew 5:11 where He says, "
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you, falsely, for My sake."
Jesus tells us in the Scriptures that persecution in His name would come, and that we should expect to get hurt -- just like Paul.
But Paul didn't tell the church these things to bring them to grief. Rather, he simply wanted them to know that he loved them and that he didn't have any ulterior motives for what he was doing.
That must be our focus as well: to love our neighbors, co-workers, family members and our enemies alike and when we do, we fulfill the law of Christ. When we see our work as fulfilling what Jesus had asked us to do, we quickly turn away from the emotional rollercoaster of trying to get people to listen, and we feel a greater joy for doing the work of God. Paul illustrated this further in his letter to the church in Galatia where he writes,
"But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another." (Galatians 6:4)
This truth was clearly shown to me when I took a particular spiritual interest in a man I arrested for DUI. He broke his foot when he crashed his motorcycle and I spoke with him in the hospital. After finding that he was at his spiritual bottom, I found that he reacted well to the Gospel. The next day, the Spirit urged me to go back and take him the story of the potter found in Jeremiah 18. To my surprise, He came to church and answered an alter call to be saved.
As happens all-too-often, this man soon fell back into his heavy drinking and he stopped going to church. This weighed heavily on me because I thought I had done something wrong. Happily, I soon discovered that this was just part of the messiness of life. He would take that alter call prayer of faith three or four times before it finally stuck (a genuine conversion that came after persistent prayer and counsel.
I find comfort in the above passage in Galatians because I now find my joy in doing the work Jesus asked us to do in the "Great Commission" (Matthew 28:18-20), and I don't worry so much about the immediate outcome. We are told that only the Holy Spirit can change a heart while it is our duty to plant seeds and water them (usually involving "mud"). It takes time for a tree to grow and bear fruit.
The life of every genuine believer involves allowing the Holy Spirit to "wash" away the mud and grime that covers our own sinful nature. As we do so, we should also see how others are in the same place we are and we can start the process of washing them with the water of the Word as well.
Paul points this out when he calls for the forgiveness of a Corinthian church member who was caught up in an incestuous sexual relationship with his step-mother (verses 5-11). Paul had instructed the church to expel him in 1 Corinthians 5 until he repented of his sin and could be restored. It appears by the language Paul uses in this second letter to the church in Corinth that the man did exactly that -- he turned away (repented) of his sin. The new problem discovered through Paul's letter was the fact that the believers refused to forgive and restore the man to his place in the church.
The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness. In the very center of the Gospel narrative, God the Father sends His only Son -- Jesus the Christ -- to die on a Roman cross to cleanse the world of its sins. This shows us that our God is a forgiving God and because He is a forgiving God, we must follow suit and forgive those who have wronged us. Jesus Himself is emphatic about this in Matthew 6:14-15 where He tells us,
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive your trespasses."
Let me illustrate this with a modern example we as cops can relate to. On November 14, 2014, Aurora Police Officer Ryan Burns was shot in the leg by a man on a traffic stop. Officer Burns' life was saved when his partner successfully applied a tourniquet to his severely injured leg. Sixteen months of surgeries, nightmares, and painful court proceedings went by and on March 15, 2016, the sentencing hearing finally came around. The judge handed down harsh words for the suspect as he sentenced him to thirty years in prison. Officer Burns, however, stood in stark contrast to the judge. Ryan, a Christian, told his shooter, "I honestly and sincerely forgive you for what you've done to me." Later, he told the Aurora Sentinel that it was important for him as a Christian to forgive his shooter.
In law enforcement, each one of us have suffered at the hands [teeth, feet, bodily fluids] of those we police. Maybe you are fortunate enough not to have had your life demanded of you but we have all been assaulted, spit upon, cursed at and so forth. Can you honestly say you've forgiven them?
Have you forgiven those who have wronged you knowing that Jesus died in YOUR place (for your sin)? So that those who turn to Him in repentance and faith can receive the ultimate forgiveness?
The magnitude of Jesus' love for us in spite of our sin is laid out in the Gospels, and perhaps most notably in Luke 23:13-25. Here we find Pilate seeking to release a prisoner: either
Jesus, a man who had done nothing but heal and love, or Barabbas, a known murderer and terrorist. Dr. Luke sums up the exchange in verse 25:
"And he [Pilate] released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will."
The Jewish people, mostly comprised of the religious leaders, had made this declaration believing that Jesus was a blasphemer of the Living God. Yet if you look at Jesus' motives, it becomes obvious that God -- out of love for us -- allowed Barabbas to be set free so that His own Son could dies in order to save us (ALL people, to include Barabbas).
I look at Barabbas and, in a lot of ways, I see myself. As a cop, I am regularly in contact with many that, in my flesh, I can say have done worse than me. Yet I also know that I am still a sinner, and that ANY sin separates me from God. Lord knows I have done my share of detestable things in the eyes of God. Yet Jesus chose to stand by quietly, choosing to be beaten and crucified while I was released from my sin. That is a humbling thought -- that God's grace released me even though I was a sinner. On this Paul writes,
"But God demonstrates his own love towards us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
Can you honestly look at your life and see the messiness involved in it? Can you honestly say that your life has become "cleaner" with the "living water" of the Holy Spirit poured out on your life? I can say that I have, and how mighty that cleansing had to be to take away my sins. Praise God, Jesus, our Lord and Savior, did the washing with His blood so that our mud pies (and our lives) could be washed as white as snow! Can you say that? Do you have that assurance or are you still "playing in the mud?"
Well done Matt. Let me ask a final question: Are YOU forgiving and restoring others who repent of their sin and seek restoration (discernment needed on the latter, of course)? Friends, this is NOT "optional" -- we are commanded to obey! Here is a solid reference on this issue: What Does the Bible Say About Forgiveness and Reconciliation?
In answering these questions, please c
onsider the following: