Residential burglary (a crime where the suspect or suspects break into someone’s home in order to steal their valuables) is a very common crime here in California. Just a few days ago, we surveilled a suspect early in the morning as he left his house. The suspect drove many miles to an affluent area on the northern coast of Los Angeles. Instead of driving into an residential neighborhood, however, the suspect pulled into a parking lot of a church. As I waited to see what he would do next, I began running through possible reasons he could be there. Could he be parking in the lot of the church with the intention of walking into the nearest residential neighborhood to start looking for target homes?
Was it possible that he was truly attending a church function? What kind of a person could go to church, pray, worship, hear a message from scripture, and then go out and spend the rest of the day breaking into houses? How could anyone be so hypocritical? How could he feel good about himself going to church when the rest of his day he might be committed to victimizing others?
As I wondered how this suspect might praise God one minute and then victimize someone the next, I started to remember my own experiences at church. I mean, how many times had I been in the middle of a prayer when I started drifting off thinking about some recent accomplishment at work, or some plan to accomplish something even greater, or what I was going to do after church to serve my own sense of pleasure? How many times had I been singing a song about how great God was when I started thinking about something great I thought I had done? How many times had I heard a message about forgiveness while thinking about someone at work who had angered me and who I myself was unwilling to forgive?
As I sat there judging this burglar for daring to go into a church in the middle of a crime spree, God started to convict me. Shouldn’t I instead have been hopeful that the man really did have a relationship with God? Shouldn’t I have been glad if he was regretting his behavior and asking God for forgiveness? If he broke into someone’s house I would be there to arrest him, but in the meantime couldn’t I at least be open to the possibility that he was a sinner just like me? Hoping in one moment to be close to God and then thinking about myself and my own desires the next?
I’d like to think I am the good guy in this situation. I’m the cop, I stop the bad guys. I want to pursue being good, I want to emulate the goodness of God, but this case was a real reminder that in that pursuit I need to gain a sense of perspective. I am a sinner, and I need to be careful to judge others when I am not living up to the same standard myself.
We all have things with which we struggle. I hope I never get to a place where my sinful behavior could get me arrested. Even in this moment I want to talk about how “well some sin is worse than others” and obviously this guy was still way worse than me. But the Bible makes it clear, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. Next to the perfection of God, even our greatest works are like filthy rags. My sin separates me from God just like this suspect’s sin separates him. We both need the sacrifice of Jesus to be made right with God. We all have things with which we struggle. The Bible makes it clear, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. - Jimmy Wallace Click To Tweet
I am embarrassed that I needed to be convicted about this. I should be thanking God that this guy might go to a church. I mean, where is he more likely to turn his life around than in the presence of God? Did I really think I was so great that arresting this guy was going to put an end to his criminal behavior once and for all? He had been arrested by us before and likely would be again. Jail could only be a temporary solution. Only with God could a permanent solution be found.
So thanks God, for calling me out, for convicting me on this point.
For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
Jimmy Wallace (J. Warner’s son) is a Police Officer, a Detective in Los Angeles County, a Christian Case Maker, and host of the Incarnate Investigation Podcast (featured at ColdCaseChristianity.com).