by Donna Lee Schillinger
She who builds a high gate invites destruction. Proverbs 17:19b
Something the planners of all gated communities in the United States are yet to figure out is that sealing off a place from the outside world makes a neighborhood more enticing to the criminal mind. Gates say, “I have something very valuable inside, and you can’t get it.”
Fences are intended to be effective against the tiny minority of the population that acts on criminal impulses. But unless the fence is 12-feet high with razor wire at the top or charged with electricity, it won’t keep out a truly determined criminal; it will just slow him down. I believe that not only are fences largely ineffective protection against the criminal element, but they may even inspire criminal activity. According to our proverb, building a fence is like saying, “Come, break into me!”
People also build intangible, invisible fences for personal security, and these invite destruction as well. The face that has written on it, “No Trespassing!” shuts down the possibility of many positive interactions that could lead to friendships, to say nothing of the fact that it doesn’t reflect Christ.
More than the false security of iron gates or steely looks, what’s needed is a healthy balance of security and trust. We must keep our personal security high around the inner circle of our tender heart and soul, as well as the intimate parts of our bodies, while being open and affable in our outermost circle.
Every society on earth depends on the integrity of the masses to function properly; so it stands to reason that most people aren’t dangerous. This is not to say that the vast majority of us are highly sane and without dysfunction. In fact, it seems most people have some mild to severe neurosis, if not psychosis. So we must interact with people every day from that place of balance between security and trust.
As in everything, Christ is a great example in how to treat people. Christ was so downright elusive at times even His best friends couldn’t figure Him out. He had one being in His most intimate circle and that was His father, God. Then, He had His circle of very close friends that He loved dearly – the ones with whom he shared His last supper before dying. There was a larger group of friends, some of whom traveled with Jesus, and it seems that Jesus’s family was probably also in this wider circle of friends. Finally, there were the masses. He wasn’t a friend to them all – He had enemies among them – but He had compassion on them all, even the ones He called a “brood of vipers.” Remember He said, “Woe unto you…” which paraphrased could mean, “I really feel sorry for you guys.”
If we could see people the way Christ sees them, we would have compassion on everyone too. Every hardened criminal on earth was born a sweet baby. None of them came out of the mother’s womb tattooed, smoking cigars and cursing a blue streak. Despite how bad they’ve been throughout life, Jesus loves everyone, even them. And He commands us to love them as well. This doesn’t mean we have to open our homes to practicing rapists and murderers, but I believe it does mean we need to treat everyone with civility, while employing good judgment to ensure our physical safety.
I used to interpret for Spanish-speaking defendants. Some of them were in jail on some pretty hefty allegations. When they came into the courtroom from jail, where they may have been in holding for some months, they usually looked and smelled like they just missed their annual bath. My upper lip instinctively wanted to curl as I approached them. Despite how physically unappealing they might have been, I was obligated by the interpreter’s code of ethics and my own moral convictions to treat them as if they were the judge – with respect and dignity. Without exception, I found that a respectful approach was met with a respectful response. For hardened criminals, they sure seemed like awfully nice guys.
You’ll find the same to be true too. Become disarmingly charming with a pleasant tone of voice and a face that says, “Jesus loves you,” and you’ll be surprised at how well you’re treated in return.
Hold this thought: Instead of a fence, hold up the shield of God’s love.