Rather, I felt like they had quit me, so I responded in kind. I was in 6th grade, the stereotypical nerdy, chubby kid with too many words and not enough social skills. I would go to school every day and listen to the taunts and jeers of my classmates, then go to church on Sunday mornings and hear the exact same things. I was the class joke. It made me hate church. It made me disinterested with God. By the time I was ready to transition into youth group, I was nearing the breaking point.
The straw that broke the camel’s back was when a boy threw my Bible out of the second story window into the bushes below for no reason other than to laugh at me.
I went home and tearfully begged my parents to not go to church anymore. My reasoning was that the church was supposed to be a loving place, and if that was true, I should be treated differently than I was at school. People should accept and love me there. But, that was not the case. And that is not always the case in many churches across our country. A place that stands for truth, love, and grace can often become a place of lies, hatred, and gossip. I see it all the time as a youth pastor. People who are difficult to love get pushed to the side in favor of those who don’t take much effort to minister to, or old friends that we are comfortable with. That’s wrong. It’s sin.
Reese Roper, who was/is the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Five Iron Frenzy, helped start a church in Denver, Colorado for people who felt left out and abused. What did they name it? Scum of the Earth. I love that name. Sure, many churches wouldn’t want a name like that, but their mission is right in the name! They are there to reach those considered the scum of the earth. The difficult. The addict. The dropout. The “special”. The outcast. The orphan. The very people that Jesus told us that he came for, the very people that God commanded his people over and over again to help in the Old Testament. What we forget sometime is that we are all scum of the earth. Because of our sin, Scripture tells us that are God’s enemies, the targets of His wrath, and separated from Him by our own wrongdoing. We are not holy….we are filthy rags, unrighteous….scum.
I was talking with an older gentleman who works with our youth yesterday. He’s become a mentor of sorts to me, and I was talking to him about my past, and he was shocked. He told me he’d always assumed that I had grown up in church, that I was a good little church boy that had never had any doubts or problems, but that now he saw differently. I was reminded in that conversation of why I do what I do, why I gravitate toward the broken and abused, and why when they walk through the door of our youth ministry I want so desperately for there to be no judgment for them. Because they are broken, just like you and me, just like all of us. And they need the same redemption that I was offered, that I have experienced in life, the same salvation that all people are freely given.
So, as scum of the earth, I reach out to fellow scum of the earth, knowing that we all have some kind of hurt, some kind of story to tell, and redemption waiting in the wings for each and every one.