From my journal of January 13, 1998.
This was my morning radio program (“Phone Call from the Pastor,” Lifesongs 89.1 FM. New Orleans)….
Have you ever been arrested? Imagine the devastating impact on your family.
Last night the evening news showed the arrest of a fellow on the Northshore for the murder of a convenience store clerk several years ago. He was in handcuffs and being escorted into jail by a couple of sheriff’s deputies.
As he walked past the camera, he stared into it and said, “Pray for me. And pray for my family.” I confess to being shocked. I mean, he was a fairly rough-looking man–the word ‘burly’ comes to mind–and I was expecting him to say anything but that. And it touched my heart.
Now, I have no knowledge about this case. I don’t have a clue as to his guilt or innocence. But as a result of his simple request, I have prayed for him and his family several times.
Whether he did the murder or not, the fact is he still needs our prayers. And in either case, his family is devastated and needs God’s help.
Last Friday night, I was walking into a local supermarket and noticed a couple of police cars sitting near the front door. As I approached, the doors opened and the police escorted out a lady in handcuffs. What was shocking was she was an employee of the store, still wearing her checker uniform. I thought, ‘How embarrassing this must be for her.’ And I prayed for her.
Scripture tells us to “Remember the prisoners as though you were in prison with them” (Hebrews 13:3).
I’ve never been arrested, but friends have.
Keith, a pastor friend, was hauled out of his church in handcuffs and made a spectacle on the evening news in a major city. Some mother was accusing him of child molestation, involving little ones in the preschool program. The pastor insisted he had no contact with anyone in that program, but he was arrested. Several things happened in quick succession.
Church members who were prone to believe the worst ganged up on their pastor. Members of the public who hold to the philosophy that “children don’t lie about these things” wanted to lynch him. And he was quickly out of a job. Yet, he had not gone to court yet.
Eventually, investigators decided that there was not a word of truth to the allegations and the charges were dropped. But the damage had been done.
His reputation was ruined. A lot of so-called friends judged him guilty.
Later, he wrote a book about the experience with the haunting title of “Guilty–Until Proven Innocent.”
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Oh? Not always.
My friend Bob was dismissed from the First Church of Lodebar after a number of difficult years. The pastor before him had been forced out also. My opinion was that no one could have pastored that church due to the changing neighborhood, the entrenched leadership, the expectations of the membership, and the declining resources. Nevertheless, it appeared the members still lived in the past and had the notion that if only the right pastor were in place, the glory days of the 1960s would be restored.
There was no scandal in Bob’s leaving that church. He’s a good man with a sweet spirit and humble heart. After the financial support from that church ended, he began to face the sad fact that pastor search committees work from fear rather than faith, that they are so frightened of making a mistake they will not go outside the box and do something which might get them criticized.
One church sent its committee to meet with Bob. They heard him preach and interviewed him more than once. When they talked with critics in the Lodebar church, what they heard was innuendo and insinuation but nothing specific. When the chairman called Pastor Bob to end the relationship, all he could tell my friend was they had decided “where there is smoke, there’s fire.”
Judging without evidence. Condemning a good man to irrelevance.
Last I heard, Bob is doing secular work to support his family. Had the Lodebar church had him arrested and charged with child molestation before television cameras, they could not have done a more complete job of ending his ministry.
Not everyone who is in prison is behind bars.
When the Lord calls to mind someone in trouble, let us lift them to the Father and ask Him to take charge, to bless them with whatever they need, and to bring about good from this bad situation.
You will not learn until Heaven what God does with your prayers.
I hope that’s all right. “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).