Healing bad guys

Bedtime Theology with the 5 yo...  

Little veterinarians

(Discussing the story where Judas betrays Jesus in the Garden of Gesthemane)

5 yo: Why did Jesus heal the bad guy? (Roman soldier who had his ear cut off by Peter)

Me: What do you think?

5 yo: I don't know!

Me: Well, I guess Jesus wanted to do the loving thing. Would you have done that?

5 yo: No!

Me: Yeah, that would be hard. I mean, what kind of person would heal a bad guy?

5 yo: Another bad guy?

Me: (Laughing) Well, it is unusual. But Jesus ways are different than our ways.

5 yo: Way, way different! 

What kind of person would help a bad guy? Apparently another bad guy! It must take one to know one.

It's insightful that my 5-year-old recognizes that it's possible for a "bad guy" to do good things. He's right, of course. We're all a mixed bag of good guy and bad guy; saint and sinner as Martin Luther would say. Kids play make believe with those categories (good guys, bad guys) but the world is much more nuanced, or at least it used to be. 

One of the weirdest (also tragic) parts of the COVID-19 pandemic has been the increased polarization we've seen in across the United States and in our hometowns. Who are the good guys? Who are the bad guys? Depending on who you talk to, your local school board members, health care professionals, vaccine advocates, anti-vax crusaders, people wearing masks and people not wearing masks are either good guys or bad guys. Those who perpetuate the culture wars (and make money on it) are quick to help you sort the good guys and from the bad guys. But who is being healed when we unilaterally focus on who is good and who is bad?

Many have pointed out that Jesus spent much of his time hanging out with bad guys. He was arrested for being a bad guy and died a bad guy death. But more important than all that, was the healing. Jesus healed in his life, and he brought healing through his death and resurrection. Good and bad isn't the point -- new life and healing with Jesus is the point. 

Our school superintendent sent out a letter last month citing a high number of behavioral issues in students across the district. Those include things like outbursts and classroom disruptions, on one end, and vandalism and violence on the other. These are not okay. But are these children bad guys? Or are they, like all of us, in need of healing during this heartbreakingly disruptive time? My children have seen some increased classroom disruption and meltdown among their classmates this year. It's been a good opportunity to talk about what to say and how to react, rather than simply labeling another student as a "bad kid."

I wish I had the answers for all the healing that's needed for the heartbreak and divisiveness in our communities and schools. I know that Jesus brings healing and I cling to this. But what about all of us bad guys? Maybe we can bring some healing, too. A friend has been sick and said an acquaintance from the "other side" of the so-called culture wars just brought her dinner. She nearly wept with gratitude. We're all a little bit good and bad, sometimes. But we're the only hands and feet Jesus has for healing on this earth. Let's do it, and show our children. 


  1. This blog is POWERFUL. Thank you for putting what we have all been wrestling with into words!


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