As a young rookie cop, I listened with a blend of anticipation and joy when the old-timers told their stories. I remember one story about a young man with a bad attitude who drove by one of the old-timers. When he passed the cop, the young man extended his hand out the window and gave the officer the single finger salute. The old cop calmly turned around and pulled over the offender. When the officer approached the overly confident young man he was met with a sneering face and the words, “I didn’t do anything illegal. Why are you hassling me?” After asking calmly for his driver’s license, registration and proof of insurance, the officer said, “Thank you, I will be right back.”
In a few minutes, the officer returned and said, “I have issued a citation. Please sign here. It not an admission of guilt, it is your promise to appear.” The driver had now shifted into the aggressive punk mode and said, “Old man this is bogus. I just flipped you the bird and there’s nothing you can do about it.” The officer replied saying, “I have cited you for an illegal hand signal. Please sign here.” The offender continued to turn up the dial on his punk meter by offering the officer a long list of profanities and continued belligerence. The young man then said in disgust, “I will see you in court.” The officer said, “I hope so. I would enjoy listening to you explain your choice of hand signals to the judge.” At that, the countenance of the driver fell. Then he smiled. He knew he had been had by a wisdom that was far superior to the vulgar gesture he tossed out his window in passing.
We need some creative expressions of wisdom in the times in which we live. The way forward for the culture and the Church will not be discovered by repeating what we have done in the past or simply letting some aspects of life pass by without offering a loving challenge. Being a street cop puts a person on the mean and sometimes coarse streets of a city. The same thing happens when our faith walks out of a church sanctuary and encounters a broken culture. We can look disconnected and out of touch because we don’t engage people at the level of their brokenness with a loving challenge to their assumptions.
We don’t have to be angry or mean to engage human brokenness. We do need to be wise if we are going to discover a new and creative way to engage dysfunction with the hope of reconciliation, not just another confrontation. In the end, if you choose to be wise, someone might actually smile at you in the challenge if you remain calm and considerate in the way you reveal the truth and confront injustice.