Growing up, we disliked bullies. But if we understood what they were going through, would we view them differently?
Yesterday I was at the Rose Bowl Parade and I started to observe the people there. I tend to do that a lot when I am around a lot of people. It’s not something I do to judge, but rather this is my opportunity to see how the world of different people and how they interact with each.
Also, I like to observe people because a part of me has always had the heart for people who are misunderstood. The thing about it is that as I grew up, mainly during my college years, I interacted with a lot of different people. Part of my upbringing at that time as a college ministry leader was to understand that there are ways to reach out to people. How could I reach to them if I don’t understand them? Because of that, God taught me that everyone is different and I can’t generalize anyone.
I grew passionate for taking care of people who were on the street. Most people I have met wouldn’t get near the homeless. I prefer to give them hugs. I spent a lot of time with them and got to know their stories. Yes, some cases are because they are lazy. But so many more are because they were born into a bad situation or even the lowest paying jobs refuse to hire a homeless. The system isn’t as good as we’d like to think.
So back to the Rose Bowl Parade, I saw a ton of people. I saw Asian and Mexican families mostly. But then I started seeing other races showing up. By the time the parade began, it was like an awesome melting pot of culture. But also there I saw people dressed up in outfits that were a little strange. I also saw a bunch of Jesus Scare Freaks.
What’s a Jesus Scare Freak? These people.
I encountered at least four different kinds of these people yesterday. I didn’t talk to any of them. I just watched. Several had signs like the yellow one, which didn’t accuse people. Some like the white one was not so friendly. We even had one guy on a megaphone pointing out the Ten Commandments and telling us how we’ve all failed to obey them.
When I was in college and I encountered these people, I felt like arguing with them. I felt that I had to stop them from scaring off others. I felt that it was my obligation to tell them that what they are doing is not what Jesus would have done.
But then as the years go on and I continue to see these people did I realize that I get these people. I am not saying that I agree with their methods, but I think I understand them now. What they are doing, I hope, is inspired by God. They are believers and they want people to go to heaven. That I cannot argue. Their methods are wrong (maybe?) but I can’t just go up there and try to change them.
Part of this comes from the above video. This has to be a defense mechanism. It had to be a reaction to something deeper inside. What I can see is that these Jesus Scare Freaks do what they are doing is because they are scared. They are scared of hell, scared of not preaching the word to honor Jesus and a fear of wasting away. That mentality is actually noble. But the fear overtakes their logical thinking. That’s what I started to understand. These guys aren’t the bad guys. These guys are just messed up sinners living in fear like we all should. They just react to it differently than some.
Accusing people of their sins isn’t wrong, but it isn’t right either. Their approach isn’t loving, but it’s righteous. There is no time that should be wasted without telling our fellow man of their erroneous ways. How they approach it is what we don’t understand. We look at these people and their scare tactics and judge them. I even call them Jesus Scare Freaks because they scare me. But I no longer despise them because I understand them.
“Fear can hold you prisoner. Hope can set you free.” — Andy Dufresne
That’s a quote from The Shawshank Redemption and it works for this situation. All the people I observed, especially the Jesus Scare Freaks, were all living in fear. Families were fearful of getting a spot. Kids were fearful of getting lost in the crowd. These JSF people were fearful of hell. That’s why they held signs and accused people. They feared of not being worthy.
I have fears myself but I can’t let that hold me down. Jesus has set me free. Ever since I got to know Jesus for real when I got into college has helped set me free. Fears are still there. I have plenty of them. But my epiphany in life last year set me free. No longer do I worry as much about things I can’t control. No longer did I become a prisoner of my own thoughts. I was free. I am free. This freedom saved me.
The JSF people I encountered are still living in fear. Are they free? I don’ t know. If they were, they would relax a bit and live life with love. Instead they are trying to work and please their own ego. I applaud them for using a platform to preach Christ, but I want to do it because I am free, not a prisoner.
But I remember I used to be like them. Not so much to this extreme, but as a fearful man. The bad kind of fear.
So despite a lot of people misunderstanding these guys, I get them. I don’t agree with them, but I get why they are the way they are and I won’t try to force my ways on them. They won’t listen to me, but I pray that they are no longer living in fear. I hope one day soon they will no longer live in fear, but live with hope.
I understand them now. I still will view them differently because they are different from me. But I can’t judge them anymore. Not after what I realize. I am not better than them. I am them.
We’re all looking for Jesus to set us free. It’s a journey that these Jesus Scare Freaks and I are both traveling. I pray that we end up at our desired destination.
I may be seeing this differently and maybe I’m wrong. And if I am, I’m on my path trying to find the right path to Jesus.