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Spiritual profiling

A racially motivated death and a son’s challenge to rescue the perishing

By Sean Smith

I’ve never liked riding public transportation or getting messages telling me to phone home immediately. Both bring back memories that are unpleasant.

…With tears streaming down my face, my heart pumping rapidly from anxiety, I ride past another bus stop. My whole world is so fragile in that moment – and about to be blown up in the next. I wonder how a 9-year-old can live through the most devastating announcement of his life. School has ended prematurely for me that day as my own cousin gathered other kids around me on the playground to echo the taunt, "Your daddy’s dead, your daddy’s dead!" Once I get off the bus and walk home, my worst fears are confirmed by my grandmother. She tells me that my dad had been murdered the night before. And the way he was murdered is almost as disturbing as the loss itself…

Sean Smith

My father was driving home late that night from IBM, where he was working as a chemical engineer. As he drove down Stevens Creek Boulevard in San Jose, Calif., two policemen pulled him over for a supposed speeding violation. What ensued became the substance for a major lawsuit and court battle. These policemen brutalized my father and shot him in the back as he ran for his life. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. My dad was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and, in the estimation of the officers, he was the wrong color.

Racial profiling is a term used to describe the tragedy my family experienced. The above incident would scar me for years and is still as ugly to me now as it was then. Ignoring a person’s life and despising a destiny all based upon one’s personal prejudices and pride is repulsive.

Matthew 9:35-38 says: "Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest."

In this passage Jesus was walking through the marketplaces of various towns. He saw a diverse crowd that was altogether different from Him. They were separated from His Father, while He was – obviously – connected. Interestingly, He then told His disciples to become harvesters of lost souls.

Our churches today desperately need Christ’s prophetic vision for our cities and various people groups. Spiritual profiling is judging people on the basis of their ethnicity, socio-economic level, or type of sin, then ignoring their eternal life and despising their spiritual destiny. Most Christians would never kill anyone, no matter how different they might be. But these same Christians may withhold the eternal cure for the spiritual cancer that is bringing about eternal death all around them.

The one thing that is absent both from the police officers who shot my dad and from the Christians who don’t reach out to homosexuals or the homeless is compassion. Matthew tells us that when Jesus saw the crowd He had compassion on them. God is dealing with the hearts of His people who fail to rise up in compassion. Many well-meaning saints sit in homogenous churches, never building redemptive relationships with sinners they classify as different from themselves.

The prophet Jonah was the original spiritual profiler; he avoided a potential harvest of souls because of the Ninevites’ nationality. It was as if Jonah said, "Satan, you can have Nineveh." Jonah wrote off the Ninevites; some believers have written off individuals who are bound with certain perversions or addictions. Jonah went in the opposite direction from where he was called; many churches have moved into the suburbs while they have a call to the urban areas.

I praise God for all the churches crossing the lines of poverty, race and "less respectable" sins in order to win souls and bring life to those who are perishing. That is what the Pentecostal movement was founded upon: all races, socio-economic levels, and people who were formerly bound by sin worshipping together under one roof. The Azusa Street Mission and its revival were God’s gifts to the modern church. The legacy is not only a baptism of power but also a baptism of love.

Satan wants to block the effectiveness of the church of the new millennium by biasing God’s laborers. As God showed Peter in Acts 10:28, we cannot call any man common or unclean. As Peter overcame his biases and received a harvest that day, so must you and I.

Being like Jesus means feeling what He feels. Jesus was never motivated by the clothes people wore, the salaries they earned, or the types of vehicles they used. Jesus was even accused of receiving and welcoming sinners into His presence – even going so far as to eat with them. We need to see the way Jesus sees. A reconciler sees people as they may become someday rather than focusing on who they are.

In the church today, we need an attitude of equal-opportunity love that says, "It doesn’t matter what race you are, what lifestyle you’re stuck in, or what side of the tracks you come from. The Spirit of Christ in me will move toward you in compassion." That love knows no limitations and will go the distance.

Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, admonishing His hearers to not allow their cultural biases to affect them. American culture has switched the price tags, valuing more highly the affluent, the prominent and the attractive. But even if people ring up "zero" on society’s cash register, we must remember that God has bankrupted all of glory to purchase them.

That day in the marketplace, Jesus was moved with compassion for the lost because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus saw those "sinners" prophetically, already referring to them as sheep even though they were still outside of His flock. His redemptive vision opened the door for their salvation. Our challenge in this hour is to target the "less desirable" crowd and to cross over all barriers to fulfill God’s end-time mandate to win souls.

Sean Smith is a full-time evangelist and director of Spiritual Life at Bethany College (Assemblies of God) in Scotts Valley, Calif.

Sean Smith Ministries, Pointblank International, is located in San Ramon, Calif.

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