As a child and teen I loved Westerns. In a lot of Western movies and novels there’s that one man, he might be wearing a badge or he might not, but he’s the one the bad guys are afraid of. Sometimes he’s a loner while other times he has a pack of friends. However, when he is the one wearing the badge, he’s usually facing long odds. He’s got to lay down the law, protect what is good and proper, and he puts his own life on the line to do it. Those were usually the best Western movies. You were guaranteed action, and the plot was clear cut. The hero was easily identified: he wore the badge.
In life, God wears the badge. Too often we’re concerned with our reputation. This is especially true of churches. “We want people to say that XYZ Church is the friendliest church around,” or “We want folks to know that ABC Church is a mission-minded church.”
Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. – Joshua 2:8-11, ESV
These were Rahab’s words and she described the feeling in Jericho. Jericho was a walled city that the Israelites had no means of cracking open on their own. However, those within its walls were shaking in terror. Why were they so afraid? They knew that God was with the Israelites. He was the one fighting and winning the battles. It was His reputation, not the Israelites’, that was the determining factor. The citizens of Jericho weren’t afraid of men, especially a nomadic people who had primitive weapons and a huge number to keep fed and healthy. They were afraid of God.
In our own lives, God has to wear the badge. It’s His reputation shining through us and through our churches that’s the difference maker. We forget this too often. We focus on our accomplishments and abilities, whether individually or corporately, and somewhere along the way we reduce the importance of God in all of that. Too often we talk about what we did last year or what this particular program brought in or how much money our church contributed to missions. We aren’t so quick to say, “This is what God has done.” And we aren’t so quick to depend on Him to do more. We still talk within our capabilities, within our resources, within our knowledge and experience. This is probably why we aren’t as effective as we can be, both individually and corporately.
It’s time to let God wear the badge in our lives and our churches. If you want to use a Western analogy, let’s be the posse he forms up to go get the cattle rustlers or bank robbers. He brings us together, He calls the shots, and in the end, He’s the one the camera fades out on as the credits roll. After all, He’s the one with the badge that the bad guys are afraid of.