Can We Be Good Scouts?


Community Harvest Foursquare Church, Pasadena. September, 2012. (Now Closed). 

Join the Club
“I refuse to belong to any club that would accept me as a member.” I was thinking about the famous Groucho Marx quote a few weeks ago when the Boys Scouts of America changed their membership policies. Beginning on January 1, 2014, sexual orientation will no longer serve as a membership criterion for youth in the program.

People I love are all over the place on this decision. At one end of the spectrum I hear, “They didn’t go far enough. Gay kids need to see gay leaders.” At the other end I hear, “I’m writing Scouting off. I won’t enroll my children and I won’t support their programs.”

The vote got me thinking about the Church. You know, the worldwide community of believers who, given the opportunity, would joyously greet one another, link arms around the world’s biggest campfire, and join together in a rousing chorus of Michael, Row the Boat Ashore.

Wait. You don’t see it? Me neither, to tell you the truth. What if I ended up next to the delegates from Westboro Baptist Church? Would I want to extend the peace of Christ to those hateful, misguided people?

And there’s the problem. I am prone to judge, even though I can’t see inside hearts. I’m not qualified to say, “That guy over there, he’s a real Christian. But the fellow beside him? Nah. I once saw him [fill in the blank.]”

Still, I find it easier to refrain from judging in the abstract. It’s really, really easy to hypothetically do the right thing.


A few weeks ago we brought my cousin Hugh and his niece Marlaina to church with us. His mother, her grandmother, had died. After the memorial, we brought Hugh, now quasi-homeless, back with us from San Diego so he could spend more time with his niece. On Sunday morning we went to church. After church, the four of us attended the church picnic.

I’ve been blessed. The sins I struggle with are invisible. So I can put forth a nice respectable front. I wouldn’t say that of my cousin Hugh.

My cousin the junkie wears the marks of the hard life he’s chosen on his skin like a bad tattoo. He’s ragged. His teeth are no good.

And the people of my church welcomed him. I pray (and believe) that they would have welcomed him without us standing beside him.

Rich, Me, Marlaina, Hugh. O’Neill Park. May, 2013.

Plenty of us (all of us?) hide a sinful heart beneath a veneer of respectability.

And this is why I don’t get to decide who’s a Christian and who isn’t. (You don’t get to decide, either, but that’s not my point today). God can examine hearts. I can’t. 
Nowhere in the Scripture does it say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and to get to the Father you go through Me–and the membership committee.” 

Paul takes up the matter of judging in 1 Corinthians 2. Note his instructions that we are to judge all things. People aren’t things. 

Judging people isn’t my God-given purpose. No. 
My place is to shine a light.
So let’s get our glow on, shall we? 

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:14-16 (ESV)

Leave a Comment